When strategy and development are critical aspects of your professional life, the people you know, meet, and work with are your most valued assets. I won’t say that it’s who you know more than what you know. Both are important and for different reasons. Who you know constitutes your network and everyone seems to agree that having a well-developed network of smart capable contacts is foundational to professional success.
For me, since I am truly interested in other people’s experiences and insight, developing new relationships is something I think about every day. To add value to any professional situation there has to be a mutual exchange of useful ideas and information. Many times sitting down and talking with someone one-to-one for the first time is the most important meeting with that person you will ever have. And sometimes that’s the only meeting with that person you will ever have – or at least have for a very long time. At least until you come across the right opportunity in which to involve your ‘assembled’ relationship.
In using the term ‘assembled’ I am keenly aware that it sounds a bit manufactured but my intent is to highlight the ongoing process of creating greater trust and professionalism between you and the people in your network.
The idea in taking meetings with people you don’t know at all is to hopefully create a circumstance in which you can help one another at some point in the future. It’s your job to keep track of the relationship. It does require thinking, and perhaps even the occasional interaction when something of mutual interest arises or comes to light. There often is not any particular future opportunity that is being explored, simply an exchange of ideas and thoughts/philosophies such that at some time in the future you might realize that this ‘assembled’ relationship might be the right person to be involved in something on which you are working.
My cousin came up with the idea that people like to “have a guy for that”. Something breaks in your house or on your car – and he has a guy for that. Need tickets to a hot show? He’s got a guy for that. While metaphorical, the idea that you have a network that you can tap when you need something specific is useful in all aspects of your life – professional and personal.
How do I go about assembling relationships? In different ways of course. Movie director Woody Allen once allegedly said – “90% of life is just showing up”. Well I show up. At meetings, lectures, discussions and conferences. I never know whom I might meet. There are blind alleys and sometimes, wasted time involved in the process but I have had multiple instances where I showed up for something and met people that later on became trusted business associates, (and even personal contacts and long-term relationships).
Putting the right people together takes steady effort but if you like to meet people and learn new and interesting things then start to add to your assembly of relationships. It’s a great investment.