Never underestimate the importance of relationships in both your career and your personal life, writes Sachin Waikar for Stanford Business Review.
Waikar has tapped into the wisdom of leadership coach Rebecca Zucket, who stresses that nurturing your networks is a “critical life skill” rather than simply a vital business tool. Zucket insists that it’s a big mistake to separate professional and private relationships.
“Our relationships are our relationships. They actually help us live longer, so they’re important not just to our careers but to our health,” she says.
Here are Zucket’s best eight tips for establishing and utilising your relationships to benefit not only yourself but also the people around you.
1) Spread your net wide. You never know who will turn out to be helpful, so seize assorted opportunities. Make a point of connecting with people you don’t know by inviting them into your group.
2) Let one thing lead to another. Active networking tends to have a knock-on effect; one person will introduce you to another and the ball can keep rolling, ultimately offering multiple opportunities to grow your business.
3) Value the weakest of links. If you’re looking to progress in your career, the best results can often emerge through friends of friends or new acquaintances rather than our longer-established “strong” contacts who already share the same network and information.
4) Revisit old contacts. There’s no reason to fear reconnecting with people from the past if you feel they could help you now. Email them a gentle, respectful reminder of who you are and invite them to get in touch. Zucket says: “Make sure you don’t sound desperate or entitled, and always give the other person an out – such as ‘if it’s not a good time for you’.”
5) Always introduce yourself well. In making LinkedIn approaches, for example, take care to explain briefly who you are and why you’re specifically getting in touch with new contacts. Do you share similar expertise, for example, or are you responding to an interesting article they wrote?
6) Explain why you want to connect people. If you think two of your network contacts could benefit one another, always ask permission from each before linking them up. Checking they are interested will avoid any awkwardness later.
7) Unite contrasting demographics and keep evolving. Young and old can learn a lot from each other, as can people from diverse industries, geographical areas and career paths.
As time goes on, your network needs to grow and change to keep it relevant and in the present. Check where the gaps are and seek out those people.
8) Be generous. Look for ways to help others rather than wallowing in self-interest. Show you care by creating a network that sees connecting people for mutual benefit as a priority.
Relationships have extraordinary potential as building blocks for your whole life, not just your career. Nurture them wisely.