Build a band of peers. Support each other. Essentially, that’s what you do when you network. You establish connections: people you know, people whose capabilities, experience and opinions you trust, and you help each other. So what can you do to create a network?
Newsflash: You’re already part of many networks. Classmates, bandmates, schoolmates, for starters. People you work with. People you’re related to. The kind of connections we’re talking about here is composed of the people in your life, the ones you meet as you’re living it, and the ones you keep in touch with.
Real connections take time and continued effort to sustain, so when you reach out or reach up for advice or assistance, pull others up with you even as the more experienced ones hunker down to your level to share what they know.
Good networking also has a self-policing effect. People who insist on taking without reciprocity get themselves weeded out, and if you and your colleagues invest real thought and good efforts in your interactions, you’ll reach the point when you can’t help someone else without getting helped in return, in one way or another. You build up your reputation and you strengthen your group’s network.
What other ways can you expand on your networking efforts?
First you build it, they they’ll come:
Form a local group. Find people in your area that are in the same field or share the same interests as you do, and are willing to band together to help each other out. You can ask around, tap your friend and family network to see if they know people who know people…Check the local papers, use the library. There may be a local chapter of whatever group you’d want to join, and even if there isn’t, you can still start one of your own.
Make it a sustainable effort:
Conduct regular meetings. Work out the frequency and duration, as well as location. If you can keep to a neutral location like a local library or coffee-house, or pool funds for a breakfast meeting at an inexpensive but still-good restaurant, you can keep the stress to a minimum by not requiring any one member to host a monthly meeting at their house (unless it’s been discussed and found agreeable to do so.
Make it pay off:
Bring leads to meeting. Solid leads, and real referrals. Something you need to watch out for is getting trapped in the talking and planning stage, and hardly moving on to taking action. In your business you often come on information and contacts that you may not be able to use for yourself, for one reason or another, so why not ask to see if it’s alright to share these contacts with your business support group?
Better yet, keep looking for leads for the people in your network, not just for your business alone. Share them with the ones who can use them. Establish a real NET-work of connections by giving. Don’t worry about getting (taking) what’s coming to you, it’ll happen in its own time.
As stated earlier, strong networks take time and consistent effort to make them last, not just to pay off, and not just in a business sense. When you’re just starting out, you may feel that you’re not getting back what you put in, and that’s okay. It’ll take a while, but when you get to the point when you realize that a network is not just a means of leveraging your connections but a means of helping others improve their lives, you’ll see that you’ve been doing has been paying off all along.
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