How do you take things to the next level? What makes a connection work to your advantage? And by *your* I mean both parties involved.
If you're looking to improve how you network, this post is for you.
It all starts with the proper lens -- putting the emphasis on the work part of network. And a decision: what do you value?
When you start making more decisions based upon what's really important and figure out a way to measure that, the return is easier to spot.
Two things happen when we don't value what matters:
- you end up in a "have to" instead of "want to" mindset -- not constructive
- your own signal gets crowded amidst too much noise -- not all activity is good
Being connected helps us put what we learn to good use. This is true for businesses as it is for individuals. Connections are also situational, just like influence can be. There is tons of great information out there for becoming technically savvy.
Much of that information is literal and can be taken that way.
The challenge is that there are no best practices in being human. And making the connection is not the hardest part. Keeping it is. So how do you go about finding ways for it to be mutually beneficial and memorable?
You're connected, now what?
- make some notes in the back of the card about where you met that person and what you talked about, then enter them in your electronic database with their contact information
- it's a good idea to follow up with people right after an event, while the energy from the experience is still high, and it's likely they'd remember it if not you
- if you have resources like articles, posts, links, or connections to people, you can share and make in your follow up, that gets you started on a good and memorable footing
- after the initial contact, that's when things tend to drop off, especially as time goes by
- so it's a good idea to develop a system to keep track of when you contact people similar to the one you may have learned about when you were looking for your first job or the next gig
- that was you can revisit it periodically to touch base with people you may not have heard from or talked to in a while
- make it a habit to share with that person special content, leads, helpful things as you come across them
- this means you will need to navigate the fine line between inundating people with stuff and being useful
- being useful could even be sending short messages on Twitter when appropriate -- it's scalable on social networks, and you can make it meaningful by personalizing the comment
- find ways to join initiatives or projects by the people with whom you have good affinity and be open to opportunities coming from others you have met
- make a habit of these activities, learn from what works, improve what doesn't, seek feedback, and get creative
- you may even find ways to do projects or support an organization that means a lot to your contact over time, either directly or indirectly
- you could switch from mentee to mentor, from employee to consultant, from boss to peer in corresponding situations, for example
- most importantly, have fun and don't get discouraged by occasional dips in communication and silences, people do get busy
Connections are a gift. When you put a little bit of effort in maintaining them, you'll be surprised at the developments and possibilities they bring into your work, and life. Often it's the connections of the people you meet that end up making a difference.
This works with clients and customers as well.
Whether you use social networks, email, even snail mail (I still send paper thank you cards and books to my contacts), staying in touch after getting in touch is the secret to making connections that work.