Want to Make More Money? Leverage the Power of Your Network

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We’ve all heard the saying that we’re only as valuable as our networks. But when it comes down to real nickels and dimes, what does that really mean? How does your personal network equate to an actual income or salary for you? And what can you do to increase the value of your network… and therefore increase your income and salary?

It may surprise you to find out that the size and strength of your network can directly impact your health, happiness and income earning opportunities. But the best surprise of all is that simple, free steps can improve your network — and your earning power. ‘

Here’s how to make more money by expanding your circle and boosting your network.

The Link Between Your Network And Your Income

Humans are naturally social creatures, and happiness is being socially connected, according to many studies including one by the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. The more connected and respected you feel within your network (and the larger that network is), the more safe, happy and healthy you will feel.

This fact sets the baseline for understanding how your network can help you earn more money: We achieve our peak performance in regards to productivity, engagement and creativity when we a “happiness advantage,” or positive mindset, according to the Harvard Business Review. So the first step in achieving your best income is making sure you build social and professional connections with other people.

Your network can directly affect your income, salary, career mobility and entrepreneurial prospects. Porter Gale, start-up advisor, public speaker, former VP of Marketing at Virgin America, and author of Your Network Is Your Net Worth, once wrote, “I believe that seeking out and working in collaboration with others who share your interests and values will provide a stronger foundation, enabling you to reach a higher level of success than you would on your own.”

It’s this concept of interpersonal security, Gale says, that can replace the financial reality of job security in this economic environment (that is, securing a new job when you get laid off), or help you tap into the sea of internal referrals (where who you know gets you the job). Maintaining strong connections with current co-workers, clients and personal acquaintances will help you be considered for new opportunities and prepared to make the most of them.

How to Increase the Value of Your Network

Fortunately, you don’t have to turn to tacky networking events and uncomfortable hotel conventions to increase your network, the value of your job and the income opportunities available to you. The best way to grow your network is to make a plan based on your comfort level and follow through on it consistently.

Actively Network on LinkedIn

Start with LinkedIn (unless they owe you money). Review your current connections and make note of how you met those people. Do you see them often in real life? Then take a few minutes to write a recommendation for them based on your relationship.

If you’ve never met them before, send a short note to invite them to connect for a coffee or just email a few short questions to get to know them better. You absolutely never know what can happen when you take the time to make a connection — you may be tapping into a whole new lucrative career.

As a freelance writer, my business skyrocketed once I stepped away from job boards and into my LinkedIn network. Working with referrals from within my network has helped established trust much more quickly than the typical call-and-proposal format, and many top writers have had the same experience.

When you’ve worked through your existing network on LinkedIn, start expanding it. Keep track of who writes the articles you read online and look them up on LinkedIn. Send a connection request and compliment the writer on their article. If possible, include a follow-up question that gets a conversation going.

Then, look through the networks of your connections (your second- and third-degree connections) to see if you’ve forgotten about people you’ve worked with, studied with or met through mutual acquaintances.

Find In-Person Networking Opportunities

When you first start networking in person, don’t feel pressured to move too far out of your comfort zone.

Start with the professional network within your workplace, building and parking lot. Then look to your personal network through your neighborhood, gym and church. Introduce yourself to people you see all the time and explain yourself honestly with a phrase such as, “Hello, My name is X. I see you all the time at X, so I thought I would introduce myself today. How are you?” Very small, regular introductions like this will help you get on your network’s radar and establish baseline relationships that can be mutually beneficial in the future.

When you feel comfortable with the progress you’ve made networking within your immediate environment, think about ways you can be more active. Are there relevant, fun conferences within your industry that you could attend? Do you have any hobbies or interests you could pursue in your off time that might help you meet more people? You don’t need to zero in on business-specific people because business relationships can blossom even in casual, friendly environments. What matters is making genuine connections with people with whom you have things in common.

Are you ready to boost your earning potential (and your happiness and productivity)? Then pledge to spend some time this month actively working on your personal and professional network. You never know how your connections will conspire to help you discover and attempt new opportunities — but you do know that these opportunities are in direct proportion to the network you actively build.

Your Turn: How has networking helped you increase your productivity and income? Share your strategies in the comments!

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Sarah Greesonbach writes about career, personal finance and eating Paleo at Life [Comma] Etc.