“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — KEITH FERRAZZI, AUTHOR
You have spent countless hours and a great deal of effort in building up your professional network, now it’s time to maintain those relationships so that they last a lifetime. Many people are good at building up a bench of individuals they call their network, only to lose them over time due to lack of contact and engagement. Just like a car needs regular maintenance to keep its engine running effectively, it is important to remember that your network needs similar attention on a regular basis to keep your “networking engine” strong as well.
So how does one keep their networking engine going? Here are a few important things to keep in mind in order to maintain solid networking relationships over a long period of time.
A SIMPLE CUP OF COFFEE
Take time away from your office and invite those within your network for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. Face to face conversations and interactions with those within your network go a long way in maintaining solid relationships. Whether this is a one-on-one interaction with someone within your network or you extending invitations to several individuals to meet as a group, these interactions do not necessarily need to take up a lot of your time. Spending 30 minutes with someone over a cup of coffee is highly effective in maintaining a healthy networking relationship. For those of you who still feel a bit challenged about your ability to network, this exercise offers a great opportunity to come out of your comfort zone and spend time practicing your networking. The best way to maintain consistency here is to set a goal for yourself to at least invite one person within your network for a cup of coffee once a month. If you have the ability to do this twice a month, even better.
BECOME A CONNECTOR
A great way to earn a positive networking reputation is to help others build upon their own networks as well. Become a connector by introducing them to those within your own personal network. Whether it is through facilitating group meet-ups such as the one I described previously over coffee, or through business meetings, networking events or social interactions, always having a connector mindset is a great way to continuously maintain positive networking relationships. Once you gain a reputation of being a connector, those around you will want to reciprocate as well, further increasing your network.
One of the best ways to maintain healthy networking relationships is to always give back to those within your network. What do I mean by giving back? Ask them what they need, what their challenges are and how you can help them achieve success. One of the most important things to remember about networking is that it is a reciprocal relationship. As you receive from others, you want to give back to them as well. Become someone who is consistently asking others how you can help. You want to avoid being thought of as someone who is always taking something from others, but not giving back in any way. Lastly, assisting others in some way always makes us feel internally positive and accomplished. It builds upon our confidence, our mindset and our well-being. Establishing yourself as a helping hand sets a positive tone for our lives and allows us have better and more productive days.
SPREAD THE NEWS
As business professionals, we read our heavy share of books, articles and news on a daily basis. As you read through these things, think about those within your network who could benefit from what you are learning. Share these books, articles and news dailies with others within your network, letting them know you thought of them while reading, or in what ways you thought they could benefit from the content you have read. This is also a great way to keep in touch with those within your network that are not local or unable to see in person on a regular basis. By sending them articles and information this way, you are helping yourself stay top-of-mind with these individuals.
Networking does not always have to be about business. Take a genuine approach to those within your network and get to know them as people, beyond just your business or professional relationship. Take a genuine interest in their family, their hobbies and their overall well-being. Building these types of healthy networking relationships will go a long way in sustaining them long-term. This will also establish for yourself a positive reputation that people will think highly of and want to emulate. In business, and in life, you’ll always want to surround yourself with positive and professional people, those that have your best interest in heart. By being genuine towards others, the power of your network will be strong and lead to much success.
It is very difficult to achieve success on your own. There will always be that person or group of people that you have relied upon or that have mentored you along the way towards the success you have achieved in your life. Don’t let your networking relationships be one and done. You’ll want to avoid that day when you look around and realize your network is empty. Establishing and maintaining strong networking relationships takes some work, but the results will lead to a consistent level of success in your career. Take the time and effort to manage and cultivate them over time. You never know when a 30-minute cup of coffee could result in the next game-changing moment in your career.
CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Warrington College of Business in June of 2009. As Executive Director, Craig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Business Career Services Office and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the College of Business at the University of Florida.