Do you have a networking green thumb?

I continuously am amazed at the power of networking, and how influential your network can be in life.

If you can’t list instances that your network has saved your behind, provided you with a job lead, introduced you to a peer that changed your life, or where you have reciprocated – well then you are not making the most out of your network.

Networks are not one sided. People sometimes make the assumption that they can connect with individuals and perhaps read their blog, twitter posts, linkedin updates – but don’t make the investment in nurturing the relationship.

When we nurture our network, the fruits of that labor can be immense. We are all subject matter experts in at least one area. How have you decided to give back to your community, your peers, and the body of knowledge?

Whether it’s contributing to a white paper, personally mentoring someone, sharing your experiences via a blog or presentation – these all can make the difference to just one person. And if we someone affect just one person, it makes it worthwhile.

Most of us regularly attend some type of conference, and we may see the same individuals there every year. There are key things we can do to build upon these acquaintenances so that we build a mutually beneficial network. My top 5 tips are:

1. Join a user group, then actually participate in it! – whether it’s via linkedin or some other method, joining and participating with other users will build your own knowledge base and create an enviroment best practices sharing.

2. Make it a goal to meet 5 new contacts per conference and then follow up with them – It’s not about coming back with 50 business cards and then not having a clue who was who. Try and meet five indivividuals and bring them into your network.

3. For each new or existing person in your network, identify how you both benefit from your relationship – It’s not always work related. There’s always something positive that you both can bring to each other. If you can’t identify how you are giving back to the relationship, then you must put more of an effort in to nurture it.

4. Document your networking goals and have a strategy – In what shape do you want your network to be in…say in six months, a year? Identify what areas need the most improvement and what are your strengths.

5. Assess your network’s progress – regularly document the benefits you are reaping and that you also provide. Make changes that need to happen. If there are areas or people that are choking the life out of building a successful network, then take necessary action.

Growing a successful network means getting to work! There are seeds to sow, weeds to pull, you have to provide plenty of nutrients….but the fruits of the labor can be priceless.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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