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How leaders build networks to enhance their careers

It’s time to dust off your people skills, put yourself out there again, and get networking.

How leaders build networks to enhance their careers
[Photo Source: NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Stock]
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Think that the shift to remote working, coupled with ever more sophisticated technology, has rendered active personal networking useless? Think again. Recent trends may have changed how professional networks are built, but building a network remains as crucial as ever—especially for business leaders.

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If hearing the word “networking” fills you with dread, panic, or fear, this probably isn’t welcome news. But it does not have to be as difficult or time-consuming as many people believe, especially if you dutifully follow the three pieces of advice below.

MAKE USE OF LINKEDIN

LinkedIn is not a little-known secret—with more than 750 million members, it’s an essential tool in the business world. Touting itself as “the world’s largest professional network on the internet,” the platform offers networkers the opportunity to get in touch with former colleagues, conduct research on potential employers, take a deep dive into profiles of potential future coworkers, and so much more. By allowing you to connect with people, from interns to CEOs, and search for people with specific job roles, it might just be the most powerful professional networking tool to ever grace the world (yes, really).

Of course, to take advantage of the site, you will have to do more than just create an account and hope for the best. Adding people at random is not recommended, either.

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• Publish posts: To get your name out there and increase your chances of connecting with the right people, the best strategy is to create and publish interesting posts. And make sure to post regularly, too — experts suggest that posting up to five times per week is ideal for engagement on LinkedIn (as long as hitting that milestone doesn’t come at the expense of quality).

Also, put some thought into your timing. Generally, the best times to post are during the morning and evening commute or during lunch break (although there is some variation between sectors).

And what about the content itself? Carve out some to consider who you are trying to reach and what their areas of interest may be. Some ideas include:

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• Giving your opinion on breaking industry news.

• Sharing an interesting thought piece.

• Writing your thoughts on a recent experience (personal or professional).

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When all else fails and you are at a loss, consider that according to one recent study, “how-to” posts tend to grab readers’ attention the best. Furthermore, comments boost engagement, so asking your followers for their thoughts is a great way to get more eyeballs on your work.

While it is not reasonable to expect your very first post to attract the attention of the CEO of a multinational, you might be surprised at how much you can achieve through consistency.

GO TO MORE IN-PERSON EVENTS

If you belong to the 90% of the population that does not enjoy networking events full of strangers (I just made that statistic up, but it’s probably accurate), the idea of sticking to the internet to meet new people will probably sound appealing.

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But just because meeting people in person can be daunting doesn’t mean that it should not be done.

You might have heard the following Jim Rohn quote: “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” But most of us are not spending the most time with the people who can push us to grow and develop ourselves—so go out there and meet them.

There is no secret hack to this one. Just look for networking events near you, push yourself to attend them, and practice approaching people. Some good places to find local opportunities include:

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• Meetup.

• Eventbrite.

• Your college or graduate school.

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• LinkedIn.

• Twitter.

Instead of expecting yourself to magically become an expert networker in your first interaction, change your mindset. Why not give yourself the challenge of contacting five to 15 people daily with the sole intention of polishing your skills?

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One day, you might just wake up and realize you are better than you were when you began.

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW UP

Whether you are networking online or in person, the initial encounter is not the only thing that matters.

You might believe that first impressions are key, but a follow-up can be a unique opportunity to show that you remembered someone and were genuinely interested in what they had to say. Return to them and offer value.

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For instance, if you were having a conversation with a marketing executive who told you they were struggling to find the right e-learning platform for their team and you later came across a suitable solution, you could drop them a message to let them know.

Or maybe you met two people on separate occasions with similar visions who could benefit from connecting. Why not introduce them and become a super-connector?

If you are contacting five to 15 people daily, it might seem overwhelming to have to follow up with each one of them, but the least you can do is note down their details on a spreadsheet so you can remember who they are.

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Also, don’t go overboard with your messages. You’re 50% more likely to get a response to your email if your message is just 125 words long.

MAKE YOUR NETWORK WORK FOR YOU

After more than a year of constant lockdown and limited social contact, many of us are feeling rusty in the social sphere, but don’t let that hold you back. It’s time to dust off your people skills, put yourself out there again, and get networking.

Your future self will thank you.

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Tim Madden is an Executive Coach and former Headhunter. Founder of Executive Career Upgrades, he’s on a mission to help accelerate careers.