“You Are Who You Surround Yourself With”
“Your network is your net worth.”
“It’s not what you know it’s who you know.”
“You are the average of the five people closest to you.”
These classic expressions convey an important fact of professional life: relationships matter.
Human beings are social creatures. We hire, work for, buy and sell from people we have some kind of connection or trust with.
In his classic book Influence, Robert Cialdini mentions “liking and familiarity” as a key strategy used by salespeople and influencers of all types (my emphasis):
“Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.
For example, in one experiment, the faces of several individuals were flashed on a screen so quickly that later on, the subjects who were exposed to the faces in this manner couldn’t recall having seen any of them before.
Yet, the more frequently a person’s face was flashed on the screen, the more these subjects came to like that person when they met in a subsequent interaction. And because greater liking leads to greater social influence, these subjects were also more persuaded by the opinion statements of the individuals whose faces had appeared on the screen most frequently.““Influence” by Robert Cialdini
Building more connections with more people can only increase your influence and enhance your reputation.
Your relationships and social connections will make or break your career.
Most jobs are never advertised.
And experts estimate that anywhere from 70 to 85% of all job openings are filled through personal networks.
How can you enhance your network and make the people you surround yourself with as high-quality as possible? Here are 6 strategies.
1. Strong and Clear Self-Introduction and Personal Brand
People need to know who you are and what you specialize in. Make sure to have a clear message when someone asks “what do you do?”
Strong self-introductions often include:
- A concise and easily understood title, or one-line summary of your work (avoid jargon or industry-specific titles that others will not understand)
- One or two key achievements in your career (especially within the last few years) that demonstrate what you’re capable of, especially anything that is quantifiable (revenue generated for clients, money saved on a major project, number of people you currently manage, number of projects you lead, etc)
- Any recognizable name brands that you can associate yourself with (such as past clients, your current employer, or well-known software or tools you are an expert in); these serve as shortcuts for others to get a sense of your credibility and impact
Example of a Self-Introduction
Bonin Bough has one of my favorite examples of a strong self-introduction. You certainly don’t have to be as high-energy or as intense as he is.
But notice the simple overview of his roles, specific data points, and the name-dropping of brands that effortlessly enhances his credibility:
2. Let People Know What You Are Looking For
This is a crucial stage in the networking journey: have a clear ask.
Your network will be happy to connect you with opportunities or relevant contacts, but they need to know what you want.
I’ve seen many people make the mistake of either not clarifying to their contacts what they need, or accepting opportunities that are not relevant.
If you are looking for a job, tell people you’re open to exploring new opportunities.
If you are looking for customers, make it very clear to people who is the best fit for your service--and be specific.
If you are looking for introductions to key decision-makers, let people know exactly who you want to meet, or their titles, and for what purpose.
When you are clear and specific in your asks, people will be able to help you effectively. And if they can’t help you, they will at least know the kind of person that can.
3. Social Skills and Social Intuition
It will be very difficult to grow your network if you have a hard time conversing with strangers, making small talk, or have weak listening skills.
You absolutely don’t need to be a conversational master. You don’t need to be exceptionally witty or charming.
But you do need a facility with conversation skills, a baseline level of confidence when meeting new people, and enough social intuition to sense when others are interested or not interested in what you have to say.
Another big benefit of good social intuition: by quickly recognizing when others are not interested in you or in what you do, you can avoid wasting time on the wrong people.
I’ve seen novice networkers, new freelancers, and newbie salespeople waste tremendous amounts of time chasing dead leads. Avoid that error.
4. Play the Long Game
Effective networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time for relationships of trust to build and for people to fully appreciate what you have to offer.
This is why so many professional opportunities originate with school friendships--those are the oldest and longest-lasting relationships we have, other than family.
A strong reputation and personal brand is built up over many months or years in a field or industry.
As your professional achievements accumulate, your brand grows, and more and more people want to work with you or hire you.
But don’t expect huge results overnight. Usually it takes consistent effort over time for networking and relationship-building to pay off.
Allocate one or two hours every week to finding new connections, following up with prior contacts, or reaching out to key people and offering value.
Make it a regular habit.
5. Target the Right Settings and Environments
Are you spending time in the right places? Are you attending the right events?
What kinds of people hang out in the settings that you frequent? Are they the kinds of people who will open doors for you?
Remember, you are who you surround yourself with.
If you surround yourself with people who are unprofessional, directionless, or ambitionless, that’s the energy you are inviting into your life. Your career trajectory will reflect that.
But if you spend your time around clear-eyed, smart, ambitious people, then you are on a completely different path.
Your opportunities are a direct function of the environments and people you spend time with.
6. Find Opportunities to Give Value to Others
The more you can help others, the more they will be inclined to help you.
Giving value can happen in countless ways. It all depends on what others need or want. Listen to others and get a clear sense of their needs.
Don’t rush into giving value. I’ve seen many people clumsily throw an event, a personal connection, or a book at someone they’ve met, in an effort to “provide value.” Without realizing that that event is too expensive for the person, the referral is not relevant to their business, or they don’t have time to read another book.
After a few of these unforced errors, your contact will just tune you out or block you.
True value comes from listening and understanding what your contact has going on, what is important to them, and what they struggle with.
Be patient. It may take weeks or months to fully grasp what they need and where you can help.
Oftentimes it’s not what you would have expected. And it’s almost always not what you personally find interesting or useful.
- You Are Who You Surround Yourself With: 6 Tactics to Build Your Network - December 15, 2021
- Executive Presence: 3 Keys to Communicate Leadership Qualities - December 10, 2021
- How to Think on Your Feet in Meetings and Presentations: 3 Mental Hacks - February 13, 2021