When people ask me how to grow their network, I tell them not to bother. Instead, deepen the one they already have.
Here’s an analogy: when planting a tree, you invest your time and effort to strengthen the roots—the soil needs to be soft, the right fertilizer put down, the ground is watered, etc all for the roots. Why so much attention on the roots?
Because the deeper the roots, the higher the tree grows–all by itself.
Being well-networked is the same: forget about the quantity of your network. Focus on the quality of relationships. You have met literally thousands of individuals in your career. But with little effort, you can write a small list of people you truly care about from a professional and personal basis. These the “roots” of your network. Invest your time and effort with these people. And to deepen these roots, reach out proactively to each person and ask one simple question:
“So, what can I do to help you?”
What are they going though? Where are they struggling? What goals have they set for this year? How are they going to achieve them? What are they concerned about? What excites them? What worries them?
Next, find a way to help: What books, podcasts, or blogs can you recommend? What experiences can you share? To what professional events can you invite them to come along with you? To whom can you introduce them?
When I first started to deepen my network, people I’ve never met began to introduce themselves to me. They still do. A deep network grows all by itself. Someone hears about your reputation of proactively helping others and decides they want to be connected with you, too.
Don’t grow your network…deepen it. Then watch: the deeper the roots become, the more your network grows–all by itself.