Having a strong professional network is important to entrepreneurial success. No matter how large or small, a network of support provides benefits beyond measure. Here are five recommendations for maintaining the supports you need.
Do you find ways to support members of your network?
On a daily basis, review posts on social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Alignable, Twitter, Xing, and FaceBook) for opportunities to provide personalized comments. Your comments can be celebratory, such as commenting on a promotion, a new job, a new publication, a speaking opportunity, or some other achievement. Your personalized comments can add value by agreeing with the poster, providing additional information, or even offering an additional perspective. Just don’t forget that a personalized comment, instead of “likes”, goes a long way in making you memorable. Sending a well-constructed private message (DM) can be even more impactful in your networking efforts. To help strengthen your connection, occasionally schedule a face-to-face, telephone, or video chat.
Read an interesting article lately?
Share it! Keep in touch with your connections by sharing content they may find useful. As you’re reading social media content, journal articles, and the like, think about who could also benefit from the information. In your note, tell them what made you think of them and why it could provide value to their career. Share the content – either publicly or privately, depending on the nature of the content. You may not want to publicly tag a colleague with an article entitled “How to Know When to Quit Your Job”.
Do you regularly show appreciation for contributions?
Has a member of your network said or done something that positively impacted your life or career? Strengthen your connection with this person with a personal thank you. Show your appreciation and willingness to return the favor with a phone call, private message (DM), or email. When thanking your contact be sure to include how the act of kindness, no matter how small, has, or will, made a difference in your life or career. If returning the favor doesn’t seem readily possible, you may want to share your intent to “pay it forward”.
What’s your value to your network?
Networking is about give-and-take. Members of your network should not only provide benefits to you, but should also know your obvious benefits to them. While some professionals find much gratification in mentoring and helping others, they may also want to know that they can count on you for support. They need to know the value that you bring. Don’t wait to be asked. Offering your support helps you build strong relationships by showing your connections that you value their connection with you. Offering your help also establishes you as a subject matter expert.
Is a few times a year enough?
Yes, as long as your communication is meaningful. Offering information, asking for help and reporting on the benefits of that help supports healthy networking — gossip and repeated complaint do not. Keep in mind that connecting with your network doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Reach out to your connections when it feels right — and for the right reasons. Be thoughtful and concise. Don’t be shy. Give-and-take is expected in a healthy networked relationship.