By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC CJSS
So, here we are at the end of the networking series.  “What more could there be to say?” you ask.  Well, for those of you who want to propel yourselves to the next level, the following are the last components to successful networking.  Most people think that if they do everything in the prior postings, they are effective networkers. And, there may be some truth to that.  However, the most effective networkers are the people who make connections and, in earnest, nurture those connections over the course of time. What does this mean and what is it going to involve?  You feel overloaded already with all of the things that you have to do during your day. Having to spend time doing something else  seems too overwhelming.  Well, relax and let’s look at what all of this is about and how you can make it manageable for your business and personal life.

If you look at networking in the context of making connections, one of my favorite definitions of “connection” is from the site and goes like this: “the relation between things that depend on, involve or follow each other.”  A closer look at this definition provides the formula for the cultivation and nurturing of the network you have been developing.

It is not just going to a meeting once a month that will lead to productive networking.  It is keeping in contact, depending on, being involved with or following your network that keeps you top of mind  and creates and enhances rapport.  Today, more than ever, this keeping in touch is easier.  With Twitter, facebook, cell phones, email, smart phones and other technology, staying connected is just about effortless.  A line or two saying hello, forwarding an article about something you know interests the person or impacts their life, goes a long way to strengthening your bonds. It doesn’t have to be all about business.  Suppose the person you are networking with has a hobby of collecting vintage comic books.  You may come across a news article about something to do with Marvel Comics and one of the original artists that illustrated the early Spider-Man comics.  Forwarding a copy of or link to the article in a one line email is all that is necessary sometimes to keep a relationship in forward motion.  It does not have to be that complicated.

Sharing your knowledge, your contacts, and market intelligence, among other things, is important to the growth of your network.  I have said many times in the past, that I am truly impressed by the generosity of the participants in my networking meetings.  As a facilitator for the Stamford, Connecticut ExecuNet networking meetings, I am continually impressed by the willingness of attendees to share what they can during the meeting and afterward.  Which brings me to the next consideration, follow up.  If you offer to provide something to someone, it is very important to follow through on what you say.  If you drop the ball, this will be remembered at other times and speak to your reliability. However, if you come through, it will be equally noted.

Building your network over the course of time is very important so that they can also be there for you if there comes a time that you need the assistance of your group.  Nurturing relationships takes time and is not something that can be rushed. However, the rewards are immeasurable from both a personal and professional standpoint.

I hope this series of postings has helped to give you some insight into the art of networking and helped to take some of the anxiety out of it. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.  To go back and review the previous postings you can finds the links here in Networking Your Way to Success: Part 1 and Networking Your Way to Success: Part 2.  As always, I wish you every success.