Working out the key to your network doesn’t have to be a challenge. Firstly you need to know who is in your network. Quite simply, this means going back through your history and working out who you know. Consider when you were at school and a friend’s mum or dad ran a business and they were able to get you or other friends some work experience. That’s knowing who you know – it’s not exploitation, it’s asking quality questions of people you know in a position of influence – i.e. someone who could offer you some work, or not.
Some people might view using your network as nepotism – old school ties looking out for each other. It’s true but it happens every day where people ask better questions of their network and opportunities materialise. So, stop apologising for knowing people, not knowing people well enough and start asking better questions – this is potentially the biggest key to your success in life after sport. If people don’t know you are open to opportunities, available for consideration or just looking at the long-term plan ahead then how will they ever know who you are or what you could do?
The most obvious place to start is in your own database whereever that is held – Gmail, Outlook, 365, iPhone – who are your connections and when did you last speak to them? The average person has more than 500 connections and contacts in their database – that is a low guestimate. Get on with looking at those names and seeing where your best connections are.
Stage 2 is then to broaden your connection database – the biggest method people tend to use now is LinkedIn for professional connections. The maths is simple – if you have 50 connections on there to begin with, each of those people will have on average 500 connections (some on LinkedIn and others on their own personal database elsewhere) conservatively that equates to 25000 connections that are 1 degree of separation from you. That’s about 24990 more connections than you can work with at any one time!
This is explains why LinkedIn shouts about people being 2 steps away from millions of connections. The challenge here is not about creating random numbers in a random faceless database, your challenge is deciding who you really want to talk to, who could really help you in your journey moving forward. Don’t get seduced by the numbers noise, people have huge numbers of connections on Facebook and LinkedIn but their inner circle could be very different. You’ve probably seen the picture on social media of the funeral service where there are 5-6 people in the room and the comment goes, “we expected more, he had thousands of friends on social media”.
What is the job title of the person you want to meet? What is their sector of expertise? Where are they based in the country? Where have they worked before? What is the random hobby that you could find a common ground discussing? On face value, many of these criteria could seem too specific or too random – I disagree as would any LinkedIn trainer – who do you want to get close to, specifically? What do they like so you can engage with them on the same level? -Why should they take your connections, your call, your offer of coffee? The stronger the initial connection the better.
Of course the best introduction is through a referral. So find some people you would like to connect with and then go to those 1st degree connections of yours that know the person and get them to make the introduction. No, this is not nepotism, this is survival. This is using your network, this is using your database and making it to work for you.
This is the key to opening the door to your extended network – the more specific and targeted you are here the more likely you are going to be to find the right people.
Remember, new connections on LinkedIn and other social media platforms are not friends – they are new acquaintances that really don’t know you at all. Even if they have heard of you before, they do not know you. Basic relationship building is required: building rapport, understanding through listening not just talking, and developing ways in which you can both win from supporting each other.
Your final challenge – you have made multiple new connections and added them to your database, now what? Why are they going to remember you? How are you going to stay in their mind’s eye or on their radar so that when they come across a situation where you could be the perfect solution they remember you? So how do you stay in touch? For what reason, how often and using what format? Newsletters can work – small updates, random calls and emails, what realistically can you do? If you hate picking up the phone then don’t set yourself a goal of calling loads of people knowing that you will honestly never do it. By contrast, writing a newsletter, sharing your updates and cleverness may not be on the agenda either.
This is where your PowerTeam will help and support you, to identify opportunities and develop your ideas in the right way for you. If you need help building your PowerTeam then ask me, I can help guide or direct. Do not try this game in isolation – make sure you have the best people and the right people around you to make this transition process easier and more comfortable.