Effectively networking and building a community of mentors is one guaranteed way to become a better leader.
It also unlocks professional opportunities. Everyone is busy nowadays, so it’s hard to both find time yourself and find others willing to give you time, but when you both do, the return on your investment is significant. Each of you add such value to your lives that the effort is well worth it.
There is a lot of power behind networking and mentorship.
Many jobs are secured through the networking process. And if you’re a salesperson, you can expect over half of your closed deals to come through referrals. When you build a solid network and regularly meet with mentors, you allow for a an exchange of ideas, knowledge, and information that is hard to replace. Networking is the gift that keeps on giving in the sense that you constantly meet new people to add to your circle.
You might be thinking, this sounds great, but where do would I find a mentor?
You start first by identifying what your needs really are. Then, you research people who would potentially be good for the job through places like previous employers, your alumni association, social media, podcasts, or blogs. After that is the tough part of reaching out. Start out getting to know them and not asking for much to start. You want a give-and-take relationship where you can also bring something to the table for them.
To build an effective professional network, you’ll want to think about quality over quantity.
In other words, instead of attending as many events as possible and talking to anyone you can, concentrate on those individuals who can really impact where your needs lie. In addition to setting up a reciprocal relationship, work on being a connector yourself. Focus on building a solid rapport and stay in touch with people, sending them articles and tidbits you think might help them in their goals. You never know how these connections might help you down the line.
Once you have these relationships established, the next thing you’ll want to do is nurture them.
Each time you have a meeting with a mentor, set up expectations in terms of communication so that way you are on the same page. If there is something expected of you, follow up no matter what, and stay in touch beyond that just to check in. Keep looking for ways that you can add value to the relationship. Maybe they’re looking for a new hire and you can help connect them with a potential candidate. Keep your eyes open. Stay open to their feedback and build your relationship on mutual trust and respect. Finally, let your mentor know how much you appreciate them.
The nice thing about networking is it can happen any place at any time.
And the same is true of finding the mentor that might change your life. Strive to have interesting conversations wherever you go, and especially in professional settings. Always be thinking about what you can share about your career and the leadership development path you are on. The key is staying open and looking for win/win situations and relationships.