This post was originally distributed as two separate Take Flight emails. Here, they have been combined into a single post.
Building a strong professional network can seem like a large, intimidating task, especially when you’re just starting out in your career.
Maybe you’ve seen people with thousands of connections on LinkedIn, or have a friend who always seems to know someone in some organization or industry of interest. Maybe you ask yourself, “how on Earth do I get my network to be like that!?”
Growing your network doesn’t have to fall exclusively on your shoulders, however.
You can take some of the heat off of yourself by letting one connection lead to another. Imagine a tree branch, with its firm connection to the trunk early on in its length, slowly pushing out and adding many little branchlets as it grows:
This is how a network grows, too. And while it will usually take your own initiative to build the beginning of a branch (ie. make your first key connections), your new connections can help you make even more new connections.
The next time you get into a conversation or informational interview with a new connection, consider asking these two questions when closing the conversation:
- Who else do you know who would be a good person for me to talk to about [conversation topic]?
- Would you be willing to put me contact with [new person mentioned]?
Most of the time, you will make at least one new connection (and sometimes several!) from this sequence of questions. This is how you keep growing the branch out over time. It’s how your network expands in a high-quality manner.
Of course, all great trees that host many branches have one thing in common: they have incredibly strong trunks. The trunk in this metaphor is you.
Your energy, attitude, presentation, hard and soft skills – your personal brand.
This is the other part of the picture that needs your attention: your network can only become as strong as you are as an individual. The key to attracting a lot of folks to you is to become someone whom others want to know, talk to and learn from.
While it usually takes your own initiative to push the initial branch out of the trunk, one new connection often leads you to another, then another – sometimes in exponential fashion.
How big and strong can your network be? How can you manage an ever-growing list of contacts?
Going back to our earlier analogy: how many branches can a tree support?
As many as the trunk allows it to. It’s what provides strength, structure and nutrients to the tree branches. If the trunk dies, the tree dies.
When it comes to your network, you are the tree trunk.
Your own personal development and growth is what allows you to create an ever-strengthening network.
How strong your network becomes is in direct correlation to how significantly you can attract and impact other people.
The more you help others, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more curious and open-minded you are, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more empathetic you are, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more clearly you can communicate your ideas and plans, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more deeply you speak into the soul of another person, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more you link connections within your network to one another, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more you build a resonating content platform (blog, podcast, YouTube channel), the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more often you keep your word, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more deeply you know yourself, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The more meaningful you make others feel when they engage with you, the stronger your trunk becomes.
The branches cannot outgrow the trunk. Your network cannot outgrow you.
One layer of growth at a time, you build your network by building yourself.