How to Build Your Network in 5 Minutes a Day
Your network is one of the most important assets you have in your career. The question is how can you fit networking activities into your already overstretched day?
I grappled with this for years and most of the time I failed. Chalk it up to being too good at putting my head down and doing my job.
At the time I didn’t realize that not only was I hurting my career, I was also hurting my ability to deliver results for the firm at the next level.
For example, bringing in new clients happens when someone in your network introduces you to someone in their network and the six degrees of separation works for you. Also, to think strategically and get new ideas requires new and different kinds of input, ideally from people with a different perspective than your own.
These things don’t happen when you’re sitting at your desk completing tasks.
After years of trial and error, I’ve discovered some strategies that are practical and doable (even for a recovering workaholic and perfectionist like me).
Since I don’t want to overwhelm you with all the strategies at once, I’ll share the one that’s generated the most “quick wins” for me. Plus, three examples of how to effectively put this strategy into action.
Capitalize on the everyday opportunities
My favorite strategy for building my network is to capitalize on everyday opportunities. I know, it sounds deceptively simple. But most strategies that deliver results are simple.
That’s because if it’s simple, you have the best chance of actually doing it. And taking action is the single most important ingredient for success, especially when it comes to building your all-important asset: your network.
Every day, you have opportunities to connect with people, many of whom could become valuable members of your community of support. That is, they could be your future sponsors, mentors, peer coaches, connectors or raving fans.
You don’t want to overlook these golden opportunities to connect with people you already know in a way that serves our career goals.
So here are three ways to capitalize on the everyday opportunities.
1. The Dance Card
The first way is to create what I call a “Dance Card” for each person you need to impress or build a better relationship with.
The Dance Card is where you jot down key information ahead of time, such as who the person is that you need to talk to and the two to three main points that you want to convey to them or ask them about.
A basic framework for an effective Dance Card is to cover one or more of these areas:
- What do they need to know about you or your business?
- How can you help them?
- What help do you want to ask them for?
Of course, you should tailor your Dance Cards to what information and questions most apply to your situation and the person the card is for.
Sometimes I have just one Dance Card that contains three points that I want to update my supporters on. Other times, I might create a Dance Card for each important person I might bump into.
So, when the opportunity arises, I’m able to use those two minutes in the cafeteria line or in the hallway to talk about something important and relevant.
Here’s a couple of Dance Card examples:
Convey to supporters
- Recent win with project ABC
- Doubled market share
- Robust pipeline of deals
Amy Anders, Head of Dept. X
- Recent win with project ABC
- Praise for Amy’s team
- Ask about speaking at conference
2. Modularize your key points ahead of time
The second aspect is to modularize your key points before you need them so you’re not under pressure to pick out the right things to say in the moment.
What I mean by “modularize” is to group the main topics or ideas you’re most likely to be asked about or want to share into separate categories or modules.
For example, one category could be about your accomplishments, another about strategic industry trends, and a third about your group’s results.
Then within those categories, there are further sub-categories or topics. Within accomplishments you could identify your top three for the year and a way to succinctly talk about each one.
Similarly, you could identify the three most important trends in your sector and how that could affect your business. And for your group’s results, it might be the three key metrics that people care about.
- Accomplishments: Top 3 accomplishments for the year and how to talk about each one
- Industry Trends: 3 Most important trends for your business and how that could affect results
- Team Results: 3 Key metrics that people care about
You’re basically organizing your thoughts into building blocks that you can mix and match as needed.
This makes the points easier to remember – for both you and the listener. And it makes you come across as knowledgeable, articulate and on top of your game.
3. Make use of regular meetings
Once you have your Dance Card and you’ve modularized your key points, the third piece is to make use of the meetings you regularly attend. That’s right, the places that you have to be anyway.
Armed with your Dance Card and modularized points, you’re ready to spot opportunities to put them to use.
When the people you want to build trusted relationships with are at those meetings, you’re prepared so you can be more confident.
If you know you’re going to be in a meeting with your boss’s boss and need an excuse to chat with him without your boss getting upset, that’s a perfect time to have a quick sidebar conversation as you’re both getting a cup of coffee or walking out of the meeting together.
Another way to use regular meetings is to invite that senior person to come and speak to your team. You’d be doing them a favor just as much as they’d be doing you a favor because you’re giving them a chance to be more visible and perhaps do more business together. You can also flip that around and offer to speak at other people’s meetings.
Knowing how to capitalize on the everyday opportunities puts you in a great position to build your credibility and relationship with those key people you need in your career. And that’s what puts you on a path to the next level of your career.
The best part is you can do this kind of network building in very little time. After all, you’re doing what you usually do, just with some simple adjustments in preparation that will pay off in the impact they have on your network.