By Angela Lane
To get a career edge, an effective professional network is pivotal. It accelerates professional development, makes you more productive, and aids career success. You can have the benefits that come from having genuine connections with people with whom you share professional interests without appearing insincere. I call this being a "positive networker".
Don't Be That Guy
Do you know someone who only appears in your life when they want something from you?
Noone likes a user.
But they exist. In the context of a career, these are the colleagues and professional acquaintances that only connect when they need something: help with a project, an introduction to a headhunter, a reference for a job, or other work advice. And that's ok. But smart career seekers act... smarter. So, as the saying goes, "don't be that guy".
Behaviors of a Positive Networker
To ensure you're a positive networker and not "that guy", cultivate these ten traits.
Easy Associate. Being "easy-to-be-around" makes you an effortless addition to any network. So, don't be intense. Professional colleagues that are hard work or demanding don't a place in what is, after all, a voluntary relationship.
Familiar Friend. You don't need to be best buddies. But you need to listen and be familiar enough with your network members to be in a position where you can be of mutual benefit. If you don't know them, you can't help them.
Frequent Communicator. How frequent is frequent? How long is a piece of string? But if you only communicate with your network members when you need something, then communication isn't regular enough.
Information Provider. Share what you know. Sometimes our network is within our company or our industry, and commercial confidentiality will be necessary. But excluding that, share what you know, what's working, what's not, what's next. "Information is the new capital".
Connector To Others. A variation on providing information is providing connections. Positive networks thrive on mutual support. Sometimes, I am not in the best position to supply the needed support. But I may be able to act as a conduit, connecting people to those that can support them.
Thought Partner. I can help members of my network with problem-solving. I can discuss, brainstorm, challenge, critique, react, opine, observe, and assess. I can bring my best thinking in support of their challenges.
Opportunity Provider. Positive networkers direct career opportunities to the members within their network. Did you hear about this project? Did you know about that vacancy? Can I forward your resume? For the "opportunity seeker", the network partner that introduces you to new possibilities is a godsend.
Supportive Sponsor. Sometimes, not always, we know a member of our network well enough to act as a sponsor. If you can advocate for a network member, do so. All of us benefit from having another voice speaking to our work and our character.
Pays Their Way. In these days of Covid, much of our networking is virtual and comes without a monetary cost. But this point is worth mentioning. We are all familiar with the colleague you meet for coffee, who never picks up the tab. You invite them as a guest to events, but they never reciprocate. They borrow materials but never return them. Relationships are worth investing in. But the investment should be two-way.
Respectful Time-Keeper. All of the above takes time. The best networker knows that time is precious. They respect the time of their network partners. I turn up when I promise. I finish on time. You are a professional, and I treat you with professional courtesy.
What Do You Think?
I think these are the traits of the most positive networkers I know. But what do you think? How would you rate them? And what might you add? I'd love to hear from you.
And A Thank You
I have a wonderful network. It comprises so many great, professional colleagues. If you are lucky, and I am, some of these network partners became mentors. If you are very lucky, like me, some also became friends.
I have these people in my life, and they were truly "positive networkers". They got less from our relationship than I did. And in return, I would do anything for them. In finding them, I was blessed.
Photo source: https://unsplash.com/photos/8R-mXppeakM