Having a strong professional network has many different benefits. For example, your network can help you get introduced to more people, you can learn from the people in your network, and having relationships with people in high places can present many opportunities. The below types of people will help you in a variety of ways.
Connectors are people who know tons of people, are always meeting new people, and make a practice of connecting these people to each other. By connecting with connectors, you can extend your reach tremendously. The world gets smaller. You’ll have second connections and introductions to way more people.
One of the benefits of having a strong network is being able to learn and get advice. Getting personalized, in-person advice is one of the best ways to learn. Connect with people with deep experience and expertise to accelerate your learning.
If you’re starting a financial company, connect with people who know the financial industry. If you’re working in marketing, connect with people who know marketing.
Rising stars are young people who you see great potential in. These people tend to grow and rise quickly. Good people learn, improve, and meet other good people.
I try to build relationships and help rising stars as much as I can while I still can. Maybe five years down the road they’ll be investing and you’ll have started a company. Maybe they’ll be the CEO of a company that you want to partner with…or even work for.
Have a long-term view. Don’t just think about where people are now, think about where they will be. And where you might be.
Peers are people in similar but not competitive roles who you are friendly with. Being able to trade notes about your mutual experiences and support each other can be extremely valuable. In addition, there maybe be opportunity to help each other or work together in the future.
If you run an agency, connect with people running non-competitive agencies. If you do business development at a startup, connect with people who do business development at other startups.
You’re doing similar things, and possibly talking to similar people, so there should be plenty of opportunity to teach each other or make referrals.
People are often trying to connect with people several levels above them. That is valuable, however you will probably be less able to help these people and they will have less time and motivation to get to know you. Forming long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with your peers can sometimes be more valuable.
Outliers are people completely outside of your industry. It’s valuable to know outliers because I’ve found that good people know other good people. Good people are naturally attracted to each other. Your outliers may have gone to college or summer camp with some awesome people, and because they too are awesome, probably formed relationships with these people.
Don’t get stuck in your bubble. Knowing outliers gives you access to a completely different networks of people. Most of the outliers I’m close with are friends and family that I’ve known for years.
To learn more about networking, check out my book, How to Build an Awesome Professional Network.