Nurture Your Network to Build Meaningful Relationships
What does networking mean to you? Is it a means to an end, or is it an ongoing strategy that supports your professional development?
Networking, when leveraged correctly, can help you develop and improve your skillsets, meet potential mentors, partners, and clients, keep your fingers on the pulse of the latest industry trends, learn about job and career opportunities, and gain access to resources to help you nurture professional growth.
How can networking have these kinds of results? By turning surface-level networking connections into meaningful relationships.
The purpose of networking is to initiate relationships, not deepen them. The deepening happens after the initial networking occurs. Transition basic associations to meaningful relationships by establishing a sincere connection from the get-go and taking the time to follow up and nurture connections.
Create a Sincere First Impression
First impressions are said to be made in the first seven seconds. Those seconds are crucial to establishing a sincere connection between you and the person in front of you.
Skip the small talk and dive right into a real conversation. Don’t start with topics like the weather or the buffet, and skip generic questions like “What do you do?”.
Talk about industry happenings, trends, challenges, and sure to talk with them, not at them. Most certainly, refrain from delivering a sales pitch. Conversation is a skill and fortunately, it’s one you can improve.
Follow Up, Show Interest, and Be a Resource
Proper networking etiquette says that you should not take up all of someone’s time when you are engaging with them (in person or online). Everyone attends events with the intent of meeting others, which means everyone should respect other people’s times and intentions. Asking for contact information to follow up afterwards is expected.
After meeting someone, send out a short follow up message, whether by email or phone. Key points to include in your message:
- Identify where you met them (e.g. which event)
- Mention something you talked about to trigger their memory
- Include a call to action, ranging from a request to connect online to meet again in person (should this be feasible)
Be a resource if possible. Share information, links to articles, or whatever you can to show that you thought further about the conversation you both had. A simple gesture shows that you were paying attention and that you are a valuable resource. Two excellent qualities to have in a new connection.
Nurture Your Network
Establishing a strong network takes time. Relationships don’t happen overnight. Consistent and genuine effort with your network will allow people to get to know you on the professional level you desire, which eventually leads them to trust you – and this is where the value of your network lies.
When people know you and trust you, they are more likely to share their own network and resources with you. This is particularly important during a job search when you need more people in your corner — more eyes and ears on the lookout for opportunities, and more people to help you open doors.
Nurturing your network means being present and providing value. It doesn’t mean that you must regularly reach out to every single person in your network at a set time. Instead, engage in natural conversations, attend events (virtually if needed) to talk with both new people and people you already know, send occasional check-in emails, go for coffee or lunch or after-work drinks (when feasible).
Your network is full of people. Talk to them, show some interest, and be present. Nurture your network to build meaningful relationships.
Read more about executive-level networking strategies.