A strong business network has powerful benefits. Networking can be the key to finding new clients, and it’s the single best way to land a new job.
Your network can also connect you with mentors and advisors who can help you work smarter or guide you through important business decisions.
Networking is a time investment, though. And as busy as you are with work and family, you need to spend your networking time effectively, whether you’re attending professional events or building your presence on LinkedIn. Luckily, research gives us insights on how to get better results from networking. Try some of these ideas to grow your own professional network.
Start with your mindset
Do you tend to avoid networking events because they feel like an obligation? It’s time for a change in mindset. Writing in Harvard Business Review, researchers Francesca Gino, Tiziana Casciaro and Maryam Kouchaki recommend focusing on what you’ll gain from networking instead of dwelling on the things you don’t like about it. For example, the next time you get invited to a professional event, shift your thoughts from this:
Need one more reason to shift your thinking? The researchers also found that people who see networking as an obligation tend to have other issues with underperformance on the job.
Don’t neglect ‘weak ties’
Let’s say an old colleague of yours is back in town for a couple of days. Is it worth it to take some time out of your packed schedule to reconnect over coffee? After all, you were never that close to begin with.
The answer to that question might surprise you. Remember how we mentioned at the start of this article that networking was the best way to find a new job? In one landmark study, researcher Mark Granovetter found that 82 percent of the professionals with new jobs he surveyed had found their position through an acquaintance they saw only occasionally or rarely, not from a close connection. According to Granovetter, people with whom we have weak ties tend to move in different circles than we do and thus have access to different information and opportunities than we do. So it’s more than worth it to go for that coffee with your old colleague – or to check in via email or comment on their social media posts every once in awhile.
Be (wisely) generous
If you’re networking with a goal in mind — like finding enough clients to start your own firm — it can be tempting to base your interactions with others solely on whether they can help you advance that goal. But that’s not the most effective way to network. Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, is well known for his research on givers, takers and matchers. Here’s how he defines the three types: