Networking is the activity du jour for upwardly mobile professionals, but many find the concept behind these relationships difficult to wrap their head around, as many feel inauthentic during their pursuit of professional contacts. But having others available to act as sounding boards, provide support, and connect you with opportunities can be vital to your success. So, instead of trying to network, put your effort into building a community.
Why a Community?
The primary difference between networking and community building lies less in the activities themselves and more in how you approach them. Networking is often viewed as disingenuous, as some use these connections for the sole purpose of getting ahead.
In contrast, crafting a community focuses on creating meaningful relationships with other professionals as the primary goal. The intention is to forge a personal connection between members, making every interaction valuable on some level, regardless if each one forwards your career.
It also shifts the focus from short-term gains, such as finding out about job openings, to something with more longevity, building solid relationships. This simple change in mentality can alter how you approach the associated activities, making them feel more comfortable and rewarding.
How to Get Started
Even if you embrace the idea of building a community, it isn’t always easy to figure out how to start. One important first step is to assess your own characteristics, particularly those your friends or family members consider assets. This gives you insight into how you are perceived by others, which may differ significantly from how you believe people view you. With this knowledge, you can begin to select your actions based on how you want to be received, allowing you to shift your approach when necessary.
Once it comes time to begin building your community, it’s wise to approach each person as you would when you try to make a new friend. First, this relieves some of the pressure associated with forging relationships with career goals in mind. Second, it allows you to connect on a more meaningful level, instead of just what each of you can offer the other.
A simple way to start is to connect with people who have similar interests to yours, as bonding with like-minded individuals tends to take less effort. Begin by identifying some common ground and use that as a springboard to move the relationship forward. Then, assume a giving attitude, such as by providing advice or offering support, to help show that you have something to offer.
Long-term relationships involve give-and-take over time, so don’t be afraid to extend yourself to help build a connection.
Ultimately, creating a community is incredibly similar to becoming friends with new people. And, by approaching it as such, networking can feel less fake and more beneficial to everyone involved.
If you are looking for a new opportunity, the team at The Armada Group can help you connect with leading companies in the area. Contact us to see how our professional community can work for you.