You’ve probably heard lots of talk in your firm about networking and “getting out there”. But what does that mean in reality?  You’re not expected to win your own work (yet!) but you do need to be seen as someone who is building a network of people around them.  But how to do this when time is short and you’re not sure what to d Probably the biggest waste of time I see lawyers, accountants and consultants do with their business development, is network without a clear purpose or strategy.  Having a personal networking strategy that you can use to guide you with your networking activity is probably one of the biggest ways of saving business development time. If you want to, take a look at the  5 stages in creating an effective networking strategy.   Right here, we are going to look at the first stage of building an effective networking strategy – identifying your networking goals. Creating your networking goals is a two-step process. First, look at your overall business or career goals. The second step is to identify the networking activity goals you will do to reach those goals:

What do you really want to achieve via your network?

If you don’t have this big goal clear in your mind, it’s going to make it very difficult to make your networking activities, actually happen, because you are don’t have sufficient enough motivation to do any or some of these things:

  • go into Twitter daily
  • write a blog post weekly and send it out to your network
  • head out to a networking evening event after a long, and I mean long, hard day in the office
  • pick up the phone and speak to someone you haven’t connected to for a while
  • make the effort to go into LinkedIn regularly and join in the conversation

Some examples of the ‘big’ goals I am talking about include:

  1. Use my network to generate referrals to build new recurring client work of £20k every month
  2. Use my network to find a new job in 6-18 months time
  3. Use my network to find a publisher who will commission me to write my new book

To help find your big goal for networking, it’s worth reflecting on the four reasons that people typically go networking:

  1. Build their support community
  2. Build their profile
  3. Find and win business
  4. Build their knowledge and expertise base

It’s absolutely fine to network for all, one or some of these reasons – just as long as you are clear about your motivates and how this helps you. (All too often, professionals have a vague idea of why they are out networking, e.g. ‘to get known’.) Before setting your ‘big’ networking goal, or goals, think about the different roles you play in the different facets of your life. For example, when I network I am:

  1. aiming to find and win business, primarily through strategic partnerships – I deliberately look for people who are well connected to the professional services marketplace
  2. building my personal profile
  3. building my support community amongst the mothers at the school gate.

A good way of helping you identify your big networking goal is to finish this sentence:

I will use my network to …..

Complete this sentence for all the different roles you play in your life… Now that you have your ‘big’ networking goals identified, it is time to consider the next stage to building your networking strategy, audit. This is where we take some time to review before risking throwing the baby out with the bath water. In tomorrow’s blog post we will look at the ‘audit’ stage of building your networking strategy.  Building a networking strategy – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

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