By Eric Woodruff, CPA, CCIFP
Partner, Audit & Assurance Services
One of the first steps young professionals should take on their path toward success is becoming aware of the importance of building a personal network. They will learn to think of this network as the safety net that lies below them as they climb the corporate ladder. These networked colleagues can catch them when they fall and hoist them back up, as well as provide a bridge to get to the next level!
However, building a personal network should not be a one-sided effort. In other words, you shouldn’t foster relationships merely for your own personal gain, but recognize and respect the importance of reciprocity.
The strongest and most successful personal networks aren’t comprised solely of people with whom you do business. They can consist of friends, neighbors, fellow church members, golf buddies. When you focus simply on creating those authentic long-term relationships and truly connecting rather than viewing an interaction as a sole transaction, you will have greater success. When you better their lives, they will better yours. As famed minister and author Norman Vincent Peale said: “When you become detached mentally from yourself and concentrate on helping other people with their difficulties, you will be able to cope with your own more effectively.”
The bottom line: Ask not what they can do for you; ask what you can do for them, to borrow the philosophy of another famous American leader, President John F. Kennedy.
When it comes to constructing this network, don’t overthink it. You’ve been networking practically since you were born. It’s simply about making connections with people, introducing yourself, finding common ground, chatting over lunch, learning about the important people in their lives, etc. Reunite with former high school and college classmates, see what they’re up to now, tap into the personal networks they’ve built.
Always be aware of how you carry yourself and the impression you leave on people, even in non-professional ways. For example, if you play fast and loose with the rules on the golf course, your golf buddies may think you do the same in your workplace.
Building a personal network is about showing people your best, most authentic self and becoming part of their lives in ways beneficial to everyone.