Are your strategic connections adding value to your goals?

Every human being has basic needs, not merely desires but profound needs that underlie and motivate every choice they make. We make daily choices about who to connect with and why we want to connect with certain people. Some of the reasons for our reaching out to connect depend on the needs we have within us which cannot be fulfilled apart from connecting. These vary from personal, professional, or spiritual amongst others. How then can we connect meaningfully in a way that enables us to continue growing in our significant pursuits whilst providing mutual benefits to our networks?

With growing anxiety and isolation spreading across the globe, COVID-19 affects all aspects of our lives. As we begin rethinking our day-to-day work, the way we find new opportunities deserves another look, too.

To forge truly authentic relationships, you need to move people from being strangers to becoming your acquaintances, then friends, then close connections. Each stage brings its own set of concerns. The journey from stranger to acquaintance is often filled with awkwardness, ice breakers and uncomfortable settings. But the perils of the acquaintance zone are of a different sort: exchanging pleasantries, sticking to shallow conversations and attempting to escape the endless loop of “We should get together sometime.” In short, there’s a difference between knowing someone and knowing someone — and most networking advice falls flat because it fails to make this distinction.

What is networking?

Networking isn’t merely the exchange of information with others — and it’s certainly not about begging for favours. Networking is about establishing and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the people you meet. A solid network is integral to strategically positioning yourself and your professional goals for future success.

Why networking is important to your success

Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. When you invest in your relationships — professional and personal — it can pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your life and career. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career and overall development.

Active networking is vital to career growth. Often confused with selling, networking is actually about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. It involves meeting and getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return. Your network includes everyone from friends and family to work colleagues, business connections, your social network and members of groups to which you belong.

Focus Your Networking Efforts in The Right Places

Taking action in the wrong arena is a complete waste of time and energy. You can work a room until the end of time, but what good will it do if you’re in the wrong room to begin with? While filtering through your personal network, start by identifying your core contacts, people you know personally and are naturally willing to help. These are your soldiers. They should fully understand what you are doing and your end goal. 

Are you investing in relationship maintenance?

Once you’ve made a strong first impression, it’s up to you to turn that one touchpoint into a connection that has mutual purpose and positive impact. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people fumble. They get too busy, disorganized, nervous or pessimistic to follow up the right way. The result is that too many high-potential relationships fizzle for no good reason. It is important to remain in touch with the human inside of us apart from what we want to achieve from connecting with others. This forms the bedrock for authentic living. Needless to say, the best way to be highly influential is to be human to everyone you meet.

Are you willing to ask for help in order to grow?

One of the factors responsible for keeping people back from leveraging their networks and moving forward to more success, is not knowing how to request for assistance or support. In my personal experiences and throughout my coaching career, I have found that some of our self-preservation causes us to shy away from asking for constructive help. So many people, particularly women, find it extremely hard to clearly identify and articulate what they want, and second, to “find brave” to go out and ask for it.

We shy away from asking for help for numerous reasons, including:

  • Feeling embarrassed that we’re not already “there”
  • Fear of looking stupid
  • Reluctance to appear vulnerable
  • A sense of inadequacy and shame
  • And a lack of inner worthiness to believe we deserve help

To rise above those blocks, you need to get back in touch with who you are and what you’re capable of. For your social media goals for example, if you need help, you can start by asking your top supporters to write you a recommendation on LinkedIn, then take in those enlivening compliments and endorsements. Just the act of asking for a positive recommendation is a game-changer.

Tap into a deeper sense of your own worthiness and self-esteem, and muster the bravery to say “YES! I deserve this help and I’m going to ask for it, because I have exciting things I want to do in the world!”

Once you get very clear on what you need to move forward, and can build a strong case for why this is an important goal for you, you’ll be able to ask for help in ways that feel positive and exciting and will elicit the higher-level support you need.

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