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In the 5 years I have been coaching, training and mentoring, I’ve seen a few themes or patterns running with the women I have worked with.

One key theme is that probably around 70% of the women I work hate networking. The very word strikes fear into their heart, so much so I can almost see them shrink before my very eyes, like Alice in Wonderland when she drinks the potion.

It’s no surprise then that a good proportion of what I teach clients through my workshops and speaking is how to create a network that really works – for you. Most recently I ran an Intensive Workshop for my Women of Influence clients on how to build, grow and leverage their network.  The workshop was really well received, and I thought it might be valuable for you if I shared some of the concepts and content with you in my blogs.

Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll help you understand how to BUILD, GROW and LEVERAGE your network.  This week I’m going tackle the topic of how to BUILD your network.  So, sit up straight, focus, and get ready to highlight the parts you are going to put into action. Here we go!

When you’re in the building phase of networking, it’s important that you take lots of action and get lots of activity happening. If you’re not careful however, you can do too much and end up exhausted and feeling as though your efforts are wasted.

Too much of the wrong activity is what many people do in the building phase.

Instead, I want you to focus on useful networking activities that you enjoy, and that get results.

Here are my 5 Key Principles to Apply When Building Your Network:

1. Who, What, Where

I know you’re busy, which is why you need to answer 3 key questions before you start networking, to make sure your time is being spent wisely:

  1. Who do you want to meet/form relationships with?
  2. What do you want to achieve from the networking? What’s the purpose/outcome?
  3. Where will you find the people you want to meet?

2. Choose Your Platform

Events, meet-up groups, sport, social clubs, online, offline – today there is a plethora of opportunity to network, with a potential platform to suit everyone. Choose one or two that match the requirements of your Who, What and Where, make a commitment to it, and be consistent.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

Whether you are as outgoing and funny as Chandler from Friends, or as shy as a child going to kindergarten for the first time without Mum, networking gets easier and more successful the more often you do it. Be prepared,  understand what you want to achieve (see 1 above), and keep at it till you till it feels as comfortable as your Ugg boots in winter. I promise – it gets easier, and if you follow my tips, you’ll get more out of it too.

4. Play Connect The Dots

To get started with building a network, there are 4 categories of people you need to connect with. Use my Connect The Dots™ activity to get started on working out who you need to connect with.

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Key:

Connectors – These are the most valuable people in your network. You’ll know them because they will say things like, “You really need to meet Harriet. She’s just done an MBA and she can tell you all about it and what to look out for”.

Old Connections – These are connections you might not have been in touch with for a very long time, such as old school friends, Uni friends or work colleagues.

Re-connections – These are connections you used to have a good relationship with, but you haven’t seen for a while and who would be valuable to re-connect with.

New Connections – Obviously this is a key way to build your network. Use your Connectors, Old and Re-Connections to help put you in contact with relevant new connections.

5. Cultivate Focused Diversity

When it comes to a network, I’m a big fan of both quantity AND quality.

Diversity is important, but it needs to be what I call focused diversity.

Having coffee with your yoga instructor every week might be good if you’re looking to do something in the yoga space, but if, for example, you’re looking to build your career in financial services, you definitely need to spend a good deal of time with people in that area.

In Part 2 of this series on How to Build, Grow and Leverage Your Network we’ll focus on growth. Tune in next week!

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PS If you’d like to know that you are always adding value in your networking relationships, and therefore get more out of them (you get out what you put in, right?), then you need to watch this space next week and download my brand new tool created just for my clients. It’s called The Value Jar™ and it helps you create immense value in all your interactions. It’s just in the final design process and it’ll be ready for you next week.