Regardless of your industry, level of experience, money, or goals, there is single resource that stands out as the most important tool you need to succeed – the people you know. Simply put, no one does it alone, no one. The best advantage you can give yourself is to start building up a network of individuals, to turn to for help and advice, as early as possible. Maintaining your network is fairly simple and most of the people in it will stay with you for life, getting it together however, takes a lot of time. Let’s get started.
Who Are You Looking For?
For the purpose of this post I’m going to take a slightly impersonal angle, however, in practice your network should form organically over time with genuine relationships, please keep that in mind. The perfect network should be very varied. You want to have people to turn to for work and life advice, access to others, reality checks, and motivation. It’s important to get outside of your bubble – you want people from different industries, stages of their careers, age groups, and places around the world (bonus points). So how do you build this all-star cast?
Reach Out to Interesting People
It might seem obvious in retrospect, but it took a long time for me to start actively reaching out to people. If you’re at an art show and you see someone you’d like to get to know, go over and introduce yourself. If you follow someone cool online and like what they’re doing, send them an email – show your appreciation for their work. If a teacher, a friend, a co-worker knows someone you’d like to meet, ask them to introduce you. Everyone loves meeting interesting people, go up and say hi, chances are they’ll be as happy to meet you as you are to meet them.
Offer to Help
Let’s say someone is telling you about a project they’re working on that you find interesting. At the end, as you’re saying your goodbyes add “if there is a way I can ever help with something, please let me know”. Often times, helping someone out just means putting them in touch with a key person or perhaps showing them a website or recommending a book. Only do this if you’re genuinely interested in their work and don’t do it expecting to get a favour in return. Help people for the sake of helping them.
Keep in Touch
Maintaining your network means keeping in touch with people. Luckily with Twitter and Facebook this has never been easier. Follow what people are doing and keep others posted on your own work. If someone lands a new job or has some sort of success, send them an email congratulating them. Attend events people put together. If you come across and article or video you think they’d like, send it to them. Call people on their birthdays!
Ask for Help & Advice
Don’t be shy about asking those around you for help or advice. If you’re stuck on a project or unsure about a decision, send an email to those that have gone through similar things. In most cases, people like giving advice and sharing their wisdom. Don’t nag people and get mad at them if they don’t get back to you – remember no one owes you anything. If they do get back to you, thank them for their help and let them know how things turn-out.
A Few Things to Remember
- Give more than you take.
- Say please and thank you.
- Be honest.
Go through the people you turn to for help. Are there obvious types that are missing? Then actively put yourself in situations where you’re likely to meet those people. Is there someone you haven’t spoken to in a while? Invite them out for coffee – see what they’re up to and offer to help.
Do you have tips for building a support network of great people? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments.
Images Sourced from: *bri*