A solid, but diverse and ever-adapting network could be considered the most important tool hanging from any successful marketer’s belt.
The best networks consist of individuals from a range of backgrounds. Surround yourself with those who think similarly to you, but also with an equal number of those who do not. Include even the ones who make you see things differently, or call you out. These can often be the most valuable.
Decide Who You Are & What You Offer
This may evolve over time as your interests and experiences change. However, the first step to building a network is establishing yourself. Who are you, and what do you bring to the table?
A well-polished resume is part of this, yes, and it matters what’s on there, but also what’s behind it. The potential. If you’re just starting out, will you provide self-actualizing gratification to a more experienced mentor? Assist with their research? There are many different ways in which you can work your way into someone’s network, and make it part of it your own.
Can you design amazing graphics, but not write a line of copy?
Understand Where You Fall Short
It’s never fun to think negatively about yourself. And that’s not really what I’m asking you to do. Networking is a two way street, so you must understand both your abilities, and shortcomings. What skills have you mastered, which could you improve?
Try to find people with opposing sets. This allows you to pass knowledge and skills back and forth, ensuring mutually beneficial relationships. Partnering with professionals that have skill sets complimentary to your own, allows you to grow yours, while helping to expand theirs. These should be a series of mutually beneficial relationships that help grow everyone involved, personally and professionally.
Shaken, or Stirred?
Either way, mix it up! The best networks are masterfully curated blends of individuals with similar skills and traits, but also those who embody a range of opposites.
Your network should challenge you. It should force you to see things from different perspectives, and with different lenses. These networks evolve continuously thanks to the free flowing talent-share they foster. Everyone gains new skills, new inspiration.
If your network is compiled of exclusively likeminded individuals, good luck moving forward. You’re only impairing your potential for success.
Ready, Set, Network!
Whether it be in hopes of job opportunities down the line, acting as an apprentice to an experienced professional, or any other kind of personal-professional relation: embrace it. The network you develop over the course of your career can truly be the most valuable part of it. There is endless potential, with an endless contact list.
However, a good network requires constant maintenance. Don’t overextend yourself, and never sacrifice quality for quantity.
What are some of the most unique ways you’ve made a valuable connection? Who is the last person you’d expect to be in your network, but makes the biggest impact in it?