Building a World-Class Network (pt. 1)
How to build a robust professional network to accelerate your career.
Hi friends 👋
I’ve spent the past few weeks talking with friends and ex-colleagues who are deep into their job search. The topic of networking has come up almost every time, and it’s reminded me of the importance of building a network, especially during volatile times.
After having to build a network from scratch—many times, in multiple different countries, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about “networking.”
I’m starting a multiple part series to debunk the idea, and to share high level principles on how to create and nurture your professional network.
Hope it’s helpful. Enjoy!
Networking has been the single most impactful force on my career and life. It’s enabled me to get jobs at the world’s most competitive companies and meet some of the most bright and interesting people on the planet.
But first, what does networking even mean?
I define networking as the act of building intentional, mutually beneficial relationships to improve your career and life. Now, these ties may eventually become personal relationships and friendships, but the initial purpose is always comes from a professional context.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dive right in:
Lay the foundation
The biggest mistake most people make is only starting to build a network when they need it. The problem with that, is that you will almost certainly come off as overly transactional (i.e. “this person is only reaching out to be to get X"), which can be detrimental to rapport building.
The anti-dote is to lay the foundation by building a network in advance.
Create systems and consistent habits to expand and nurture your network, with the intention of learning, being helpful, and providing value. When the time comes for you to lean on your network, it’ll be ready.
Be humble, considerate, and intentional
Keep these values in mind during new interactions, conversations, and meetings, and you can’t go wrong.
Be intentional on why you’re reaching out. Perhaps you’d like to learn about how they overcame an obstacle, or why they made a career pivot from X to Y. Make it clear and specific—but in a considerate manner.
And no matter what position you’re in, be humble. Some of my “mentors” are seven years younger than me, and some of my “mentees”, many years older. You always have something to learn.
The networking flywheel
At any point in time, there are three actions you can take for your network:
Expand it—by meeting new people
Nurture it—by deepening and investing in existing relationships
Optimize it—by identifying the parts of your network you need to de-invest in
What this means:
Too little focus on expanding it—and you risk groupthink and lack of experience diversity.
Too little focus on nurturing it—and you risk shallow, superficial, and transactional relationships.
Too little focus on optimizing it—and you risk burnout and being pulled in too many directions.
Take a proactive approach to audit what part of the flywheel you need to focus on.
Seek to give first—and give more
I’m a firm believer in paying it forward. I think that when you get to the top, you should always throw down a rope for others.
So if you’re one of the lucky ones, I’d encourage you to allocate some time and energy to give back. It can be through mentorship, donation, pro-bono work, and so forth.
The easiest way to get started is by understanding the goals and challenges of the people around you. Once you do, explore how you can contribute to helping them reach their goals and solve their problems.
Leverage the right platforms
Just as certain neighborhoods, restaurants, and bars attract specific crowds—certain digital platforms attract specific audiences.
Cultures, norms, communication styles, and content format on these platforms all differ. Linkedin is more formal and rewards content that is uplifting while Twitter is more casual and rewards content that is witty.
Focus on the platform based on the demographic you’re looking to target, and learn the how to build rapport there. Once you do, you’ll improve your ability to build digital relationships that may eventually convert to IRL ones.
That’s it for now folks. Stay tuned for pt. 2!