Being connected to a network of personal and professional resources is critical to growth and success in all parts of our lives. It’s important that we continue to build these networks throughout adulthood, forming new relationships, but also maintaining those that we have nurtured over time. The success of relationships comes from the right approach. Instead of thinking “what’s in it for me,” start with the attitude of “how can I help and be supportive of this individual?” You will then build strong relationships that others want to continue.
Building Your Connections
As you reach out to others to form initial connections, there are 5 ways to promote your personal brand and show others that you have value to offer.
You do not want to monopolize conversations, either in person or online; however, it is important that others understand your passions and your interests. Your enthusiasm for what you do and what is important to you sends a strong message to others – you are someone they want to know. So, whether you are giving your 30-second elevator speech to a stranger at a wedding reception or presenting to a large group, show your energy and passion and speak to how what you do helps others. You want to present yourself as a servant, not as one who wants to be served.
Be a Participant:
Join one or two professional organizations; and also a club or group that relates to your personal interests. Be selective and keep these memberships to a small number, so that you can participate fully. This is how you get to know other people and they get to know you. Joining too many spreads yourself too thin, and if they are too large, they become impersonal. The connections you make will all be superficial – acquaintances, not relationships.
Whether it is on your blog or social media platforms, writing is a great way to present your passion to others. And in that writing, provide value to others. What value do you bring to the table? What solutions can you provide for others? Can you entertain or inspire with what you write? There are the things that will draw others who want to become a part of your network – personal or professional.
University Connections – Past and Present:
There are no doubt connections that you made during your college days, and you have lost touch since. Find those folks on social media and renew those relationships. If you are currently in college, start building connections now – they may be of great value in your future.
Becoming a valued member of your community through volunteering. It’s an excellent way to connect with others and to feel good about accomplishing something that gives back. If you can become a leading supporter of a charitable cause, you can promote that cause online as well, and make new connections in a broader community. And, if you have a business, and your business supports a charity, you will build a large community of supporters among millennials and Gen Y’ers. Social responsibility is a big factor when these two generations make decision about who to do business with.
Maintaining Your Connections
Once you have many connections, you want to maintain them, whether they are personal or professional. An important reminder however: treat your connections as individuals who you support and serve in some way, not as people who can only promote or help you. There are 5 ways to do this:
Create or Keep Creating:
If you don’t find an organization that meets your needs for networking, create one – either physical or virtual. As a founder, you will have immediate credibility and can become an influencer in your niche. And, as a founder, you will have faster and greater access to other influencers – a great way to grow your network of connections.
Express Gratitude and Congratulations:
Birthdays, weddings, new babies, and other holidays should always be remembered, even if only with an e-card. This keeps all of your relationships intact, and knowing that you have remembered and taken the time is important. Expressing gratitude in some way is also critical. Even if a connection introduced you to someone new, gratitude must be expressed. Nothing beats continued and regular communication in such positive ways.
Create Formalized Communication Methods:
Write articles that you regularly share; share great writing that others have produced, including those within your network; produce a newsletter that provides value to your tribe as a whole; recognize members of your network publicly when they accomplish something.
Plan Social Events:
Host informal gatherings a couple of times a year. If your local network is small, use your home; if large, find an informal gathering place. This puts you in regular contact with your connections and allows them to connect with one another as well. And, if you invite each person to bring another, look how you can widen your network by just one event.
This may seem “old school” but it is very effective. Pick ten people each week, and call two each day, for a short 15-minute conversation. That’s 30 minutes a day that pays off handsomely in terms of deeper bonding and more enduring relationships.
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com