Network Up or Across? Millennials, What is Your Strategy?

Your Network is your Net Worth! 

An adage in the professional world and a phrase commonly indoctrinated in the minds of millennials. But why though?

It’s about the ability to build great, mutually beneficial relationships. A highly demanded soft skill, building relations is the core of networking. Often times, building a network is aliken to mining for gold. Hereby, it is about getting to know and trust people, resulting in authentic personal and professional connections that can enhance reputation; secure a job or business deal. Get it?

Author Porter Gale in her book, Your Network is Your Net Worth, explains that networking is a new beast; and an important asset in your portfolio. As important and enticing as that may sound, networking is sometimes uncomfortable and simply, not an easy feat.

Black and White Pet Cat Valentine's Day Instagram Post

Actress, Producer & Comedian. Issa Rae a few years ago gave a piece of astounding advice where networking is concerned. She said, “we have a tendency of trying to network up, but it’s really about networking across”. A point worth noting, what say you?

(Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Women in Film)

On the contrary, we have been told otherwise over the years.  We were to told to network with those who are successful, ambitious and can provide guidance and mentorship. So, we attend various networking sessions and conferences; exchange businesses cards and contacts followed by unsuccessful attempts to reconnect or get any leads from the engagement. Have you ever had such an experience?

I’ve grown to learn that networking is a strategic and purpose-driven activity. In order to create a network that will support and enable your ambitions and goals, you first need to identify what the goal is for you, be it on a personal or professional level. Is it funding, business development, ambassadors or simply the ability to be present a specific room? What’s your game?

As a millennial who’s attended various conferences and networking events, I’ve always employed the strategy of connecting with the persons not already huddled in a group. You’d be surprised the people you meet who are not A-listers in the room but could be of value in your network. So as you try to expand your network, Exchangers, here are a few other tips worth noting:

  1. Network across, expand vertically

It is okay to start connecting amongst your peers. Have your former college mates, friends and extended family spread the word on your behalf. Nobody supports, empower and recommend you like the ones near and dear to you.

2. Networking goes both ways – so give and take.

Nobody wants to feel as though they are a stepping stone to success. In networking, focus on what you can do for the other person and not just, what they can do for you. Building relationship is about developing mutually beneficial connections for all parties involved, and you’d be surprised the returns amassed.

3. Build your professional network

And I am not just referring to having a completed and impressive LinkedIn page. Tap into your clientele, colleagues and suppliers at work. Reach out, schedule a link up and connect professionally.

4.  Be present – physically and online

The art of building a strong reputation is being present and engaged. Join and contribute to online platforms, as per your industry and interest. Attend industry-related conferences, networking sessions and seminars to connect with thought leaders and like-minded people in the field.

5. Be consistent, follow up!

Networking is not a one-off activity. I know people meet each other for the first time and “just click” and are deemed best friends for life. But that’s 1 in every 10 meetups. It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not where it ends. If you’ve had a great exchange with someone, find out what their preferred means of communication is and wait until about 48 hours to follow up and to keep the conversation going.

For me, I agree totally with Issa Rae. With networking across, you save yourself from getting snubbed by people who, to be frank, have no interest in getting to know you. Networking across doesn’t only mean, connecting with people you already know, it’s about connecting with people with similar interest, goal or at a similar level professionally. By doing so, you could identify your next co-founder/business partner, a financial advisor who can connect you with a potential investor or your best brand advocate.

So, guys, I hope this is of use to you. Go forth, network and build that net worth sista!

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