Networking is a key skill to have, especially when you're looking for a new job. Not all of us are great at it, though, and some may think of networking as simply schmoozing with people. LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman describes how to invest in your relationships now as a way to build a truly helpful professional network.
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With co-writer Ben Casnocha, Hoffman writes in The Start-Up of You (excerpted on Fortune) that the best thing to do is to maintain an active, up-to-date network, and that most professionals have five to 10 active alliances -- people you can consult with, collaborate on opportunities with, promote, and defend. Invest in that network and think of it as an "interesting people" fund.
His suggestions for nurturing your network:
In the next day: Look at your calendar for the past six months and identify the five people you spend the most time with -- are you happy with their influence on you?
In the next week: Introduce two people who do not know each other but ought to. Then think about a challenge you face and ask for an introduction to a connection in your network who could help. Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the 10 people you'd e-mail for advice? Don't wait -- invest in those relationships now.
In the next month: Identify a weaker tie with whom you'd like to build an alliance. Help him by giving him a small gift -- forward an article or job posting.
Create an "interesting people fund" to which you automatically funnel a certain percentage of your paycheck. Use it to pay for coffees and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships.
Consider it an investment in your career.
For much more networking advice, hit the link for the full book excerpt.
The real way to build a social network [CNN Money]