When it comes to networking, think quality, not quantity.
You’re probably sick of hearing it: You need to network. Networking is what it’s all about.
So you dutifully show up at networking get-togethers, exchange contact info, and conduct the requisite amount of chitchat. You also join and spend time on the online networks, clicking and liking. Does any of this do any good whatsoever?
Well, if all you’re doing is the above, then the answer is no.
The reason why is simple. These methods focus on quantity over quality. Sure, you may have 800 connections online and a shoebox full of business cards on your desk, but you don’t know these people. You’ve “met” them, but you’ve failed to take the all-important next step, which is turning a contact into a relationship.
Here’s where the real work begins. It takes time to build genuine relationships with people. On the bright side, it’s not difficult — and a lot of it can easily be done via email or online.
Look for common ground. Your friends are your friends because you have a lot in common. You like the things they like, and don’t like the things they don’t like. But guess what? With a little effort, you can find common ground with most anybody. So ask questions. Listen to the answers. Be honest. Be warm. Leave your Judgmental Hat at home.
Keep in touch. Strong relationships rest on a solid foundation of shared experiences. Invite people for coffee or to events you think they’d enjoy. Email-introduce them to associates and colleagues they would profit from knowing. If you run across an article in a magazine you think they’d be interested in, shoot them the link.
Give as well as take. If they were the one to arrange coffee last time, then it’s your turn. If they ask you to give to or volunteer for their pet charity, don’t shrug it off; contribute what you can.
Finally, remember that your network shouldn’t consist only of people who work in your specific field. The neighbors, your book club, the barista at your favorite coffee shop, former teachers, folks at your church or bicycle club — in short, everybody in your world (real or virtual) comprises your network. You never know who’s going to supply the tidbit that leads to your next big promotion.