“Successful leaders” could very well be synonymous with “those who are very well connected.” The best leaders are always seeking out ways to connect with others. Here are five ways I often recommend to intentionally seek out new connections. After all, great relationships don’t usually just fall in your lap:
- Work the Alumni Network. If you’re a student (or even not so recently graduated), tap into the rich catalogue of successful alumni provided by your college or university. Most schools keep good tabs on their high-performing former students, and you’re sure to find a potential mentor in your geographic area or area of interest.
- Launch an “Internal Search”. Say you’re new to an organization. You may have a lot on your plate learning the cultural ropes, but there is no time like the present to look around, identify those in the company who have “political capital” and reach out to them. These “persons of interest” may be up-and-coming leaders in the organization or colleagues a step or two ahead of you professionally. Whatever the case may be, scheduling a simple 30-minute coffee conversation or lunch break with them, or asking if you can stop by their office to chat can go a long way.
- Get Involved. Choose a community cause or organization you’re passionate about, whether it be your local young professional’s group or serving on the board of a nonprofit near and dear to your heart. You’ll develop new relationships, with the added benefit of developing personally. It’s true what they say about getting more out of volunteering than you give.
- Become a Card Carrying Member. I’ve spoken about the power of association membership. Industry organizations can be very helpful in giving you access to local or national leaders. You can’t put a price on the lifelong relationships and the sharing of best practices and issue-oriented dialogue that emerges from these associations. For the emerging healthcare leader, I can’t say enough good things about the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). A good starting point is to reach out to your local Regent or respective chapter. These folks can help to connect you with other, likeminded leaders.
- Social Media Isn’t Just for Fun. If you’re not active on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, START. And I’m not talking about being in active in the sense of giving play-by-play of your dinner or complaining about traffic to your friends. Establish a genuinely professional online presence by sharing links to thought leaders in your industry (or in general), case studies and journal articles. Engage in dialogue. Provide value to others. You’ll start to be viewed positively online, and this presence is bound to lead to relationships that will also be valuable to you, perhaps, throughout the duration of your career.
These ways to connect are by no means magic. Valuable resources are all around you. With just a little bit of extra legwork, you can tap into them. What are you waiting for?
What about you? What’s your go-to method for networking well and making valuable connections?