How to Build a Personal Network
In any industry, networking is crucial — but especially for insurance agents, who rely on personal connections to conduct business. But while you may have heard the term “networking” thrown around online or in meetings, what does it actually mean, and how can one start to build their own personal network?
Networking, in basic terms, is the process of developing social relationships to further your own professional aims. Whether you’re hoping to climb the corporate ladder, or simply hoping to find prospective customer bases, all insurance agents need a thriving personal network, both on online platforms like LinkedIn and in real life (think coffee dates or casual dinners). Here are some key tips on building your own network from the ground up.
Don’t Wait Until You Need Something to Start Networking
First and foremost, it’s important to develop relationships on neutral ground. Don’t start adding connections on LinkedIn or reaching out to coworkers and higher-ups because you urgently need a favor. Good personal networks are based on authentic relationships, so start by building trust over time. These relationships should also be personal; you’ll need time to truly learn about each other’s lives, interests outside of work, and broader goals.
Network with a Variety of People
A good personal network is composed of many different people — not just in demographics, but in their relationship to you. For instance, your network should be composed of mentors, who will give you advice; people who can help you fulfill long- and short-term goals, such as recruiters; and industry leaders, who should know many others in the field and introduce you to new contacts.
By diversifying your network, you can ensure that you’ll always have someone available for the specific type of assistance you may need. You also won’t need to rely on the same person over and over again, which can make it difficult to move forward in your goals. To start, create a list of potential people within these categories that you could add to your personal network.
Research Ahead of Time
Once you know who in your field you want to network with, don’t just blindly send a DM on LinkedIn or pitch a quick coffee meetup. Instead, make sure you do your research on the person before reaching out to them. Personalize your request so that you’re demonstrating that you know who they are, their skills, and what you hope to learn from them. This will make it more likely that they’ll accept your invitation, digital or not, and sets the basis for a well-informed, balanced relationship.
In general, don’t be hesitant in your networking. Whether you’re reaching out to a stranger in your industry whom you want to learn from, or you want assistance from an established connection in your field, be clear, polite, but assertive in your request. Networking is all about utilizing social relationships to improve your business, so don’t be afraid to voice your requests when the time comes!
Networking Goes Both Ways
Finally, make sure that you’re holding up your end of the relationship. Whether you’re being asked for advice, asked to mentor someone, or being called in for a favor, remember that your personal network goes both ways. Again, these should be authentic relationships, so you need to be prepared to offer mutual support to people in your network.
Ultimately, your personal network can grow and flourish over years, and will provide a fantastic support system for your professional development — as well as give you opportunities to source new clientele in the insurance industry. With every new relationship you establish, make sure you have the proper bandwidth to give it attention and maintenance so that your personal network can truly thrive.