Networking can mean different things to different people at different times, however, will not lead to genuine relationships unless you take the necessary steps to put others first. For some, networking is a superficial exercise that can come across as opportunistic, but that is a choice you have control over. When you look through your contacts list (digital or otherwise), you will find that networking can easily amount to nothing more than a list of professionals who you really don't know. To avoid this, your goal should be to develop strategic relationships from your list. This will distinguish you for how you value your connections, and through this process you create the ability to be resourceful and deliver results.
Let's take a quick temperature check for how well you engage others:
Your answers to these questions can be a good gauge for whether you are making quality connections. If you believe your network equals your net worth, then are you making time to share yourself with others? A major part of managing your brand includes how well you grow and foster relationships. The ability to call on the right resources at the right time directly correlates to the importance you place on your professional relationships, and making time for others is the best and quickest way to build influence.
1) How Can I Help You?
If you know the value of relationships then you know that networking is not relationship building. Networking can bring immediate short-term gains, however it does not take the mid to long-term benefits into consideration. If you have networked with someone recently and want to develop a professional relationship, then the strategic question you should be asking is, "How can I help you?". This simple question is the beginning of cultivating a genuine relationship and the reciprocal process of a partnership.
2) Do You Give Back or Forward?
Sometimes you can't avoid being the first to call on your network for help. This should be understood, and hopefully one of the reasons why your network exists, to provide assistance in your time of need. If you believe in the universal law of "reaping what you sow", then how many good seeds are you planting? The simple act of contacting those in your network to "offer help" can go a long way for strategic collaborations in the future. If you can't pay back those who have helped you along your journey, then pay it forward by helping someone in their time of need...you were there once too!
3) How DO You Build Your Net Worth?
As you look through your list of contacts, find those who you have not connected with in a while or those who you want to develop a stronger professional relationship. Send a brief message offering your assistance. If you receive a response for help, hopefully you have the expertise or information that is useful. If not, take this opportunity to introduce her to one of your connections who can assist. You may be surprised at the response you receive from this transparent gesture and even what may develop for you professionally as a result of reaching out. Ultimately the goal should not be giving to get back, but genuinely offering to help others. The payback for you will be the reciprocation of quality, professional relationships, which can have endless possibilities for your career success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Rivers is the director of an executive portfolio management office for a large media company. She is an avid blogger and enjoys sharing career advice on her blog, careerbluprint.org.
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