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Use Your Personal Network Successfully

This is the golden rule in networking: Give more than you get. Some people have the misconception that networking is something you do in order to get something. That attitude usually isn’t too successful. A skilled networker gives to her network by sharing information and introducing people to each other.

To be a savvy networker, you need to genuinely enjoy learning about the people you interact with. Your goal is to build two-way relationships with people you want to be part of your circle. Here's how.

Nurture your contacts

As you build your network, you need to nurture your contacts so that you can be a valuable network resource. To give your networking efforts momentum, try the following suggestions:

  • Stay in touch. Don’t expect that just having someone’s name on your contacts list is enough. Make an effort to stay in touch with your contacts by sending personal e-mails, going for coffee together, or making some other personal connection.

  • Connect your contacts. Share your connections with other people. When someone asks you whether you know anyone who can help with a specific task, search your list of contacts for possibilities.

  • Ask how you can help. When you meet with a member of your network, ask that person how you can be of service to him or her.

  • Share resources. If you find a valuable resource or service, let your network know.

  • Include and collaborate. Invite people in your network to attend events with you. When you have a project that is bigger than you can handle, ask members of your network for help.

  • Attend social events. Say yes to social events. You cannot build your network easily if you do not socialize.

  • Pick up the phone. Occasionally pick up the phone and call people to say hello and reconnect.

  • Update your social media sites. Stay current with posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

  • Send a newsletter or blog post. A monthly newsletter or weekly blog post ensures that your network remembers you. You’re providing value by delivering information that is helpful to them.

Plan to connect with the people in your network on a regular basis, but keep in mind that not all contacts are equal. For example, you may decide it’s best to contact your closest contacts every two months, the next layer of contacts every six months, and your acquaintances once a year.

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself disappear. Stay top of mind!

Choose a networking group

If you look, you’re bound to find lots of opportunities for professional networking in your community. Many organizations sponsor networking events for people looking to make contacts. But if you attend them all, you may have no room for anything else on your calendar!

How do you decide which events and which networking groups are worth your time? Start by considering these tips:

  • Ask yourself who needs to know about you and whether a specific event will likely attract your target audience.

  • Consider how often a networking group meets, how much time membership in that group would require from you, and how committed you feel to the group.

  • Pick at least three types of groups to consider:

    • A peer group for brainstorming, education, and commiserating

    • A group of prospects that includes your ideal target market — or people who interact with your target market

    • A professional business group where you can boost your credentials through certifications and your online presence via the membership's website

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