Networking is not an event, it's a process. Networking is not something you do for a limited period of time -- such is during a job search -- and then "shelve" when you "get busy" with your regular work life. It should be ongoing throughout your career .... good times and "bad" times. Nurturing and developing your business and professional network is one of the best things you can do for yourself career-wise.
One of the keys to successful networking is to put yourself into the mindset of a "giver" .... with an orientation towards "service" to your contacts -- constantly looking for ways to share and be a useful resource to those in your network. Once you begin planting the seeds of service to others on an ongoing basis, the true value of your network will manifest itself -- returning incredible rewards to you, near term and long term.
So....what are some ideas for things you can do to be of service to your network contacts -- to initiate the "flow" of giving? Consider these:
- Sending birthday cards - paper cards, ecards
- Sending holiday cards
- Sending birthday cards to your contacts celebrating the birthday of their young children.
- Sending interesting and relevant articles -- hard copies of magazine and newspaper clippings, particularly articles mentioning your network contact.
- Giving the gift of your time -- advice; an ear to listen to issues or concerns; a sounding-board.
- Promptly answering an e-mail.
- Returning "that" phone call as quickly as possible.
- Writing a recommendation (LinkedIn offers a wonderful platform for doing this).
- Referring a business contact.
- Sharing a job opportunity.
- Picking up "the tab" at lunch.
- Picking up the tab for their favorite Starbucks drink.
- Sending a congratulatory note.
- Reaching out with condolences -- sharing in someone's grief.
- Forwarding an email with a unique message.
- Sharing a link to a useful and relevant website or web-based tool.
- A simple email touching base and letting your contact know that you're always there to help them in any way you can.
- A simple phone call to say "hello" -- five minutes of time well-worth the investment.
- Giving your HONEST opinion on something.
- Withholding your advice when it's not asked for.
- An offer to donate a small amount to your contact's favorite annual fund-raising campaign.
Small acts of giving often mean more to the recipient than the
big actions (there are many more opportunities for the small acts too).
When was the last time you reached out to someone in your network to offer your assistance or support? The mere gesture of asking will differentiate you -- many people simply just don't do it.
Your acts of giving will let your contacts know that you care. Generosity also fuels your own happiness and personal fulfillment. Begin planting the seeds of giving to your network today.