This recent experience has taught me how important it is to develop a strong personal network: a network full of close, personal relationships with people who have your back and will go out of their way to be there for you in times of crisis.
Many of us expect our families to play that role. But sometimes family doesn’t live close enough and can only provide emotional support. That counts for a lot, but you need to have connections in your own community. And these close, personal relationships need to be in place before you need to call upon them in a crisis.
Holistic approach to networking
I am a believer that you need to look at your network holistically. That all aspects of your life – family, friends, work, business, community – combine to support you in your goals and help you through your challenges.
Your network has both a personal and a professional component to it. It can’t be all business, or all career. You need to share more of yourself, build friendships with the people in your network.
Mom, Dad, sister, brother, neighbors, friends, friends of friends, church parishioners, boy scout families, girlfriends, guy friends, Soroptimists, PTO parents- they are all part of your support network. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are separate, because they are not business relationships. They are in your life for a reason. They are part of your network.
Build trust by exposing your underbelly
You need to make yourself vulnerable to the people in your network. You need to show them the real you, not just the got-it-all-together perfect you. This vulnerability, let’s call it humanness, will strengthen your relationships. Perhaps that is one of the underpinnings of trust.
A professional colleague who is also a friend recently called me and asked me the cursory question “How are you?” I responded “My life is hell right now.” I am not one to be negative or to bring people down, but that was honestly how I was feeling and thinking on that day.
Honesty plays a role in your networking interactions and your relationships. You don’t always have to be “perfect” or staged. Your resiliency counts for something. Show and share the real you. Work hard to build those personal connections. Be there for people; and they will be there for you in your time of need.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Make a list of people in your personal network who you could call upon right now to help you in a personal crisis. Who would you feel comfortable sharing your sensitive information with? Who would honor that confidentiality?
Now, make another list of people that you would rally for and open your heart and your home in their hour of need.
Lastly, reach out to people in your network who you know are having a difficult time. Maybe it’s related to unemployment, illness, divorce, parenting challenges, depression, loneliness, etc. Offer your ear and your resources to assist them in some way. Sometimes just being the one to listen without judgement can make a huge difference to them.
Sometimes a homemade lasagna is in order – from your kitchen to their heart. Sometimes you might be called upon to do something really out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. How would you want people to respond to your big request for help?
Networking is about helping each other and asking for help. Take action now to build close personal relationships. Your network is not just your sphere of influence; it is your safety net.