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Build Your Network Before You Need It

Written by Alyssa Gelbard, Founder & President, Point Road Group

A robust network is critical for everyone – but it requires ongoing effort.  When you have a solid network in place that you regularly nurture, you can leverage it when you need help – like looking for a job or board seat, seeking advice about challenges facing your company, filling a critical position, assisting a colleague etc.

Too often, people become so focused on their jobs, that they get complacent about the bigger picture and only cultivate job-specific and company-relevant relationships. They neglect communication with colleagues outside of their immediate scope, rarely attend events/conferences and barely engage on LinkedIn (if at all). Then, when something changes and a job search, for example, becomes imminent, they resurface to start networking again. When this happens, they’re already behind.

Effective network cultivation and growth involves a multifaceted approach. For starters, touch base with key contacts from time to time in person and via email. Don’t wait to reach out until you need something. When possible, be a resource to others if they’re looking for help or guidance or offer introductions to contacts or event invitations.

Ongoing effort to create a robust network also means that you can’t disappear from a nonprofit or professional or alumni association you’ve actively been a part of when you get busy in your day job. While you don’t have to be involved at a peak level all of the time, don’t go MIA when all is well professionally and then jump back in only when things change. People take notice of these patterns, which doesn’t make for good impressions or strong relationships. As time permits, join a committee or volunteer to help with an event – you’ll meet new people, get to know others beyond the surface and increase your visibility – all of which can be helpful when cultivating your network. Be sure to get involved in different types of organizations too as it fuels diversity (e.g. don’t limit yourself to only networking with people in private equity, M&A or just private companies).

LinkedIn is critical to maintaining and growing your network. In addition to optimizing your profile, communicate with selected contacts from time to time.. And in addition to posting your own content,  interact with that of your contacts (and others) by sharing, commenting on and liking posts. Show perspective and expertise when engaging so people see you as someone who shares valuable information; this can attract prospective connections too.

Remember that networking and developing relationships is a two-way street. In addition to identifying contacts who are good for you to know, present yourself as someone that others will want to know as well. Communication, follow-up, sharing resources, providing referrals etc. presents you as someone worth getting to know. Staying in touch with new and existing connections (especially on LinkedIn) enables you to build (and maintain) a solid, current network.  

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