In my career in business, I have found one of the most effective tools for success is an ability to network. By networking, I am not talking about merely connecting with people. I refer to networking as the ability to form long term relationships of trust upon which business can get done and both sides are mutually served.
I read somewhere a number of years ago the following: "Every business transaction has its basis in a personal relationship." So in my view, Networking is an investment, not a nuisance. Every day you come across a person or an activity that impresses you, make a mental and physical note to do something about it. When you act, the universe conspires to make things happen for you.
So here are some quick tips on what you can do to jumpstart your own meaningful network.
1: Stay in touch with people you like and respect even if they can’t help you immediately. Be willing to do something for them; something out of the ordinary, something they will remember you by such as sharing with them a newspaper article or small gift, etc. You don’t want to access people only when you are desperate. Make this part of a drip-campaign and watch your database grow.
2: Talk to people everywhere you go. Cocktail parties and weddings are just the tips of the iceberg. Don’t forget about airplane rides, supermarket line, sporting events, festivals, bookstores and more. Each is an opportunity to meet a new contact, a new resource, a new specialist.
3: Learn to ask questions that begin with the word "Why?" Larry King, probably the greatest interviewer of all time, will tell you that it is the most powerful key to getting someone to open up. Also – get comfortable asking the question “What do you do?”. Be honest, sincere and ask with real interest. Be genuinely interested in other people, their background, their skills and life circumstances. Become a better listener. Ask a question, and then be quiet.
4: Keep a business card or fabulous looking updated brochure or other form of information about yourself on you at all times. Get comfortable handing outyour card. More importantly, collect business cards from others. Once you have the other person’s contact information, it puts you in control. When you return from an event, don’t count the number of cards you handed out, count the number of cards you collected.
5: Join every networking club and association in your field. Join Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and other up-and-coming social media platforms.
6: Follow up on any contacts. Do it that night. I make it a practice within 24hours of an event, to follow up with every single individual I met with an email message or a Linkedin or Facebook request. Immediacy of follow-up is a lost art. It is a hidden competitive advantage. Do it.
7: Be successful in your chosen field. A basis principle in life is the fact that, in life, likes attract like. It gives you credibility and a platform or foundation upon which to build your professional network. Every successful professional network must be built on a foundation of credibility.