This article was originally published for Front Office Sports.
Networking and relationship building should be a continual process in your life. This means you should consistently strive to foster your existing connections, build new ones when you can and work to “play the connector” where it is applicable.
I’ve shared some of the following thoughts in the past, but it’s important to reiterate these tips and emphasize their importance. I realize we all have busy weeks with a lot of moving parts. However relationship building and networking should always be a focus.
By elaborating on these processes, I hope to make them less intimidating for you. Here are my three easy ways to strengthen your network.
Consistency In Outreach
First, develop your “core” list of mentors, influencers, or whatever you want to call your most coveted contacts. These are the people who you keep in contact with the most and reach out to when in need of help or guidance.
This can be about 10–15 people. Keep these individuals close and reach out to them often. Ask how they have been and be mindful of what’s going on in their lives too.
Next, identify “lost” connections, or those that you’ve developed a relationship with but over time have lost contact with. Work to keep these people more top of mind and converse about what each of you have going on. This number may fluctuate, but try to identify five of these to begin with.
Finally, make a list of “acquaintances” that have been influential in your career or that you have developed even a small relationship with. This can be an evolving list of 10–15 people as you expand your network. By identifying your core contacts, lost connections and acquaintances, you will have a “living” list that constantly gets updated.
Select a core contact, lost connection and acquaintance to reach out to each week (at least) to make sure you’re always maintaining and growing relationships, while reinforcing the friendships you have.
Play The Connector
If you’re like me, you’ve either received an interview, received a recommendation or maybe landed a job because of a previous connection you’ve established. Something that’s just as fulfilling is repaying those favors and “playing the connector” for other individuals.
Don’t just network for selfish reason, network in order to help your connections out when they need it as well. It is an amazing feeling when you can make an introduction or recommendation and it ends up helping out a close connection or acquaintance.
Networking is a two-way endeavor and playing the connector is immensely fulfilling. If you think playing the connector is daunting, here are a few ways you can get started.
- Join professional networks associated with your profession and attend meet-ups, mixers, etc.
- Start a diverse reading list. Come up with the five or six things you like and pick out a book in each topic.
- Also, read blogs on these topics, follow folks on twitter discussing them or look at local seminars focusing on them.
These are excellent ways to nurture and expand your network and learn about ways to help yourself and others. You’re never too old to stop learning new things and meeting new people.
This is also not a new topic for FOS, but it can’t be stated enough. It really can’t. Being thankful should be a mindset that is adopted all year long. It is nearly impossible to advance your career without the help and guidance of others.
Everyone who you interact with in your career (both good and bad) has an impact on you whether you realize it or not and for that you should be thankful. Always be thankful for the moments that helped you improve and for those teaching moments when things didn’t go your way.
When it comes to networking specifically, thanks can come in many forms, but for me it usually means a hand-written thank you note. Make this a part of your weekly outreach. Strive to reach out to those tiers of connections mentioned in point number one above with hand-written notes.
I know email is easy and convenient, but the extra time and effort it takes to write a note won’t go unnoticed. It may even prompt someone else to take up this extra-special step of gratitude!
By following the simple tips above, I have gained many valuable friendships and relationships, which have been critical to me both professionally and personally.
Every interaction you have while networking is a way to showcase yourself and your skills. Take advantage of all of these occasions and encounters to learn new things and expand your horizons.
You’ll be amazed at what will come your way and happen in your career when you are consistent in your outreach and work to improve the lives of others just as much as you seek to improve your own.