Put Your Network to Work

When people think of networking, they often think about how to expand the size of their network. But you can also harness the power of your existing network to achieve your goals.

Take the example of my client Susan. When I began coaching her, Susan was frustrated with her job and was ready to make a career change. However, she had been so focused on doing her day-to-day work that she had invested little to no time maintaining or building her network within or outside the company. Sound familiar? Read on to learn more about the process we used to help her make a change and put her network to work:

1. Brainstorm a list of five contacts who can help in the context of your specific goal.

After outlining Susan’s ideal next role in marketing, we brainstormed names of five individuals to whom she should reach out. I challenged her to think about personal and professional relationships. Just taking ten minutes to go through this exercise helped Susan think of people she had completely overlooked.

2. Determine the current and desired strength of your relationship with them.

Using a scale of 0-10, we rated the strength of Susan’s existing relationships with each of these five individuals. She rated the people she had very strong relationships with already a 10, while those she had never met were rated a 0. We used the same scale to determine what she wanted the strength of each relationship to become over the next six months to a year. These ratings helped her focus and prioritize her efforts.

3. Identify someone who can introduce you to the people you have not met.

For the individual Susan did not personally know on her list, she identified someone in her current network who knew him or could at least help identify the right next step to meet him.

4. Develop specific relationship-building strategies by person.

Next, Susan and I brainstormed at least one or two strategies to further build the relationships with each of the five individuals. Sometimes, this is where people get stuck — especially if they already feel pressed for time. But networking doesn’t have to be time-consuming. It can be as simple as sending someone an article that’s relevant to her, sharing information on an upcoming event she may want to attend, making a point to introduce yourself at a meeting, or asking her for a 15-minute meeting to get career advice or her input about something you’re working on.

Just remember that the goal is to network in a way that is authentic for you and leaves a positive impression. So, as you develop these strategies, think about what you want the other person to remember about you.

5. Set deadlines for each strategy.

Finally, to really put some accountability in place, I asked Susan to set deadlines for each of the networking strategies she identified. This helped her maintain focus and track progress.

Susan put her network to work and got her dream job (which was also a promotion for her) in three months! She moved into a very different type of role than she had held in the past. Even though this example is about career transition, the steps above can be applied to any goal. How do you want to put your network to work?