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A Better Way to Build Your Network and Advance Your Career

Updated: Dec 21, 2023



Networking, a linchpin of professional advancement, has often been viewed through a transactional lens, emphasizing immediate benefits. Yet, such an approach frequently yields interactions that feel contrived and lack depth. This article delves into the transformative potential of shifting from a transactional to a relational networking mindset, emphasizing authenticity, mutual growth, and sustainable connections.


Shift Your Mindset From Transactional to Relational


Transitioning from a transactional to a relational mindset is foundational to genuine networking. At its core, relational networking underscores shared values, mutual respect, and collective growth. Here, interactions go beyond superficial exchanges, evolving into relationships that offer support, insight, and collaboration.


It is important to realize that networking is not just about immediate gains, it is a journey of continuous growth and support. Embracing a long-term perspective means nurturing relationships over time and investing in the success of others. By considering the potential synergies and collaborations that can arise from cultivating strong professional bonds, networking becomes a strategic pathway to mutual success.


Core Principles of Relational Networking


Shared Interests. Align interactions around mutual passions, values, and goals. For example, if you're passionate about sustainable business practices, seek out professionals in your network with similar interests and explore collaborative initiatives or knowledge-sharing sessions.


Authentic Engagement. Prioritize genuine, meaningful interactions over surface-level exchanges by tailoring your conversations to the individual. For instance, ask insightful questions about a recent project or congratulate them on a notable achievement, demonstrating your genuine interest.


Long-Term Vision. Adopt a forward-looking perspective, nurturing relationships for sustained collaboration and support. Make it a goal to regularly check in with contacts, share relevant updates, and seek opportunities to support their endeavors, reinforcing the relationship's value.



A Giving Approach


According to research by organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, highly successful networkers often adopt a giving approach which has a positive ripple effect within professional circles. With this approach, you actively seek ways to add value to others' lives without expecting anything in return. By generously sharing your knowledge, expertise, and resources, you build a reputation as a credible and trusted professional. Consider these strategies:


Knowledge Sharing: Consistently share insights, resources, and expertise freely, positioning oneself as a valuable contributor. For example, offer to conduct a workshop or webinar sharing your expertise, providing tangible value to your network and establishing authority in your domain.


Facilitate Connections: Act as a catalyst for growth by connecting individuals within your network who can benefit from collaborating or sharing opportunities. This can help you to foster a dynamic, interconnected network.


Empathetic Engagement: Effective networking goes beyond self-promotion, it requires active listening and empathy. Take the time to understand the challenges and goals of others, and offer support when appropriate. By showing genuine interest and empathy, you establish deeper connections and gain a better understanding of how you can be of assistance.


Strategically Advocate for Your Growth


While the spirit of giving propels relational networking, proactive self-advocacy remains indispensable. By articulating aspirations and leveraging network resources, professionals can navigate their career trajectories with clarity and purpose. Work to actively share your goals and the value you bring to the table, making it easier for others to support and advocate for you.


Communicate your goals and skills: One crucial aspect of self-advocacy is the ability to communicate your goals and skills effectively. By clearly articulating your professional ambitions and competencies, you enable others to align their support accordingly. Craft a compelling introduction and learn how to share your personal story in a way that not only sparks intrigue but also creates meaningful connections.


Leverage your network: Tap into the power of your connections by seeking referrals and opportunities for collaboration. Don't be afraid to explore opportunities that align with your goals. Your network can serve as a valuable source of leads, introductions, and support in uncovering fresh opportunities to grow and succeed.


Mentorship and Guidance: Seek out individuals who can serve as mentors and sponsors in your professional journey. Look for experienced professionals who can offer guidance, advice, and support as you navigate your career path. Your network should also include sponsors who are in the position to advocate for your advancement within the organization.


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Shifting our mindset from transactional to relational, adopting a giving approach and strategically advocating for our growth, helps us to build authentic, meaningful connections in our professional lives. Networking is about what we can contribute to the success of others, not just what we can personally gain. When we approach networking with this mindset, we experience greater connection, growth and career satisfaction.


For more resources on building meaningful connections and networks, visit our Leadership Library.


 

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