Build, Cultivate and Utilise Your Contacts

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

“A network is only as helpful as the people within it.”

– John Hall, Forbes, 2015

The truth remains, no man is really an island. But what exactly does that mean?

An amazing example I once heard goes something like this; imagine in a class one student gets a 99 percent and the other gets 1 percent. And let’s say that the one who got 99 missed that 1 that the other got right. In order for him to get a 100 percent, he’ll definitely need to consult with the one who got it right. Then vice versa. This is true in every area of life.

Now, you may be wondering why I’d bring this up? This is because in the job market this applies more than you can imagine. To make it out there, you need networks. These are individuals who’re ‘your eyes,’ eyeing opportunities that you’d otherwise miss. You can only be in one place at a time, so they represent you in other areas. This group comprises of like-minded people like you. They talk your language.

It is important to build such contacts. It means you have to get involved and get to meet people. Know the people within your professional circles and be known to them. The most involved people have always been the most successful in the job market. Then, to really get things going you’ll need to cultivate such relationships. This is where real work begins and may intimidate many.

Like every relationship, networking needs time and focused-energy to grow. You don’t just meet with people, rather you keep those contacts alive. Talk about ongoing trends in your sphere of work or profession. This shows level of involvement you have, and this will impress the people you’ve made contact with. Count on it.

‘Although one thing to bear in mind is that a strong contact network isn’t about how many people know your name- it’s about how many people will help you advance your career. Quality over quantity.’ – Olivia Maitre on 7 Ways to Build a Good Contact Network

I remember talking to a friend of mine. He was telling of his approach to friendships. He said he kept OQPs (Only Quality People) within his circle. And in coming to think about it, I believe that’s the source of the success he’s been experiencing. This is because every time some opportunity comes up, they either contact him or provide necessary references. They’re his source or knowledge base. They advise in matters relevant to career progression.

According to Olivia Maitre, ‘the more diverse the better. By adding people from different industries, backgrounds, age groups, you open your chances to a broader range of insights, connections, and opportunities. A diverse network might also mean having different ‘genres’ of people, such as a mentor, a coach, a visionary etc… See in this way: if you keep the same type of contacts, in other words with similar backgrounds and profiles, it limits your opportunities to expand elsewhere; to chances that you wouldn’t have thought of beforehand.’

Key to this, is the fact of prioritization of contacts. Based on your personal and professional goals you wouldn’t want to be caught up in doing everything, everywhere. You would want to move towards something at the end of the night. So make sure that you keep revising your contact list- putting those with the highest possibility of propelling your success in the top. The rest of your contacts just expand your horizons.

Lastly, stay in touch. After all, why would anyone go to the drudgery of connecting if not to benefit thereafter? Connections are meant for success. So it is imperative that you stay in contact. Show some life in your professional space. Keep those relationships going. This is where we talk about utilizing your contacts. This sort of interaction is vital; it is what will get you the desired outcomes form such relationships.

To bring this to close, let’s consider a seed analogy. For a farmer a seed means everything. This is the source of his harvest and wealth. Think of the amount of time he is expected to invest in preparing the soil, watering, weeding and in some cases thinning the crops. That is, in itself a lot of work. But, because the farmer is motivated by the promise of harvest all such work is seen as no reason to stop sowing seeds.

In career development, networks are such seeds. They’re not easy to make, but are worth it. They need a lot of nurturing and building up. But if career success is what’s important, any necessary reaching out is all worth it. There’s no going around this fact.


Teboho Polanka
Teboho is a Social Worker, Writer and Inspirational Speaker. He is in pursuit of MSc. in Managerial Psychology. Graduates are able to apply psychological principles and methods to tackle challenges in the work environment and provide effective practical solutions. Acting as industrial-organizational psychologists.