4 Ways to Nurture & Enrich Your Professional Network
Sometimes, it's easy to get hung up on words.
“Networking” is a word that has been overused, and often evokes negative feelings of being disingenuous. If we substitute the word “connections” for “networking”, the feelings and actions will naturally be more genuine. If we shift our thoughts about Networking being a “what can you do for me” game to a mindset of “connecting for the purpose of supporting each other,” the process becomes more natural and comfortable.
Here are a few simple ways to nurture your network that can be adopted by introverts and extroverts alike. They are honest and natural ways to stay connected.
1. Always Keep a Supply of Note Cards Ready.
Actually, not only note cards, but also postage stamps are good to keep handy to send handwritten notes. There’s the obvious birthday or anniversary greeting, but also consider sending a note just to say hello. Or, if you know a big event is coming up or someone had a recent achievement, write a note of encouragement. It’s nice to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
Yes, texts and emails can serve the same purpose and might be easier to accomplish. If someone crosses your mind for a particular reason, pause for a few brief seconds to type out your message. (Ask Siri for help if you’re driving.). Hit send, and off you go!
You never know when you just might make someone’s day.
In fact, I received this exact text early this morning: “Hey I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you this morning. Just grateful to have learned so much from your example.”
As I’m penning this BLOG, I have a smile on my face because it meant so much to me. It probably took the sender less than 60 seconds to write, and now, my whole day will be better because of it.
2. Connect People to Each Other
This may take a little effort, but it’s so powerful when you invest the time to ask people about their lives, and introduce them to someone they need to know.
For example, someone may be looking to start something new, like a business or a new hobby. If you know a person who has done something similar, offer to make the introduction.
We had a a woman in a Chapter You small group who was considering a new business, selling and shipping a food item. A small group member offered to introduce her to a neighbor who owned a mail order company so that she could get some tips on her new business idea. Another woman needed a website and was connected to a developer, who’s now creating a beautiful site to launch her business.
People are always seeking recommendations for companies offering goods and services. If you’ve had a great experience in the past, take the time to make the connection.
If someone’s looking to make a career move and you know a person in the field they’re targeting, you could change a life with a simple introduction.
3. Find A Way to Be Helpful
This is super simple but requires you to be aware, perceptive and intentional.
Start by paying attention to what others around you have going on in their work or lives. Even if you don’t know how you could help, offer your assistance. You never know how serendipitous your timing might be. Plus, you may learn something new that could lead you in a different direction on your journey.
I remember the first iPhone launch in 2007 when I had the responsibility of running the Technology Command Center at AT&T. Hours before launch, I realized we had set up a specialized hotline for our field reps, but we had neglected to assign someone to answer the calls. Panic was setting in as I realized there was not a single resource who didn’t have an assignment. At that very moment, a fellow employee named Eric showed up at my desk, and offered to help. He had moved to Atlanta the day before, and knew the launch was an enormous event. He didn’t know how he could help, but he showed up - at just the right time, with the exact skill set I needed! It was a powerful and career-saving moment that I’ll never forget.
Eric was simply offering to help! And you can, too.
4. Give Public Recognition When Someone Does Something Great.
Think of how you feel when someone recognizes you for a job well done. It can be really meaningful. A simple approach could be to write an email to the person with a clear description of what they did and why it was important.
Be sure to copy their boss, their peers, or others in their circles who might want to join in the conversation.
This is a practice that you can use with anyone: your peers, your direct reports, a boss or another leader outside your team, a client, a vendor or even a neighbor. Your words of recognition can be the fuel that ignites someone to keep going and, possibly achieve even greater accomplishments.
At the very least, it’s certain to make them feel good about themselves, and we can all use a few more positive voices in our lives.
Nurture Your Network!
These are all examples of genuine ways to nurture your network, but more importantly, they’re ways to enrich your life and the lives of those in your circles.
I’m naturally a lover of people so I’ve never given one thought to "nurturing my network". Staying connected with family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances is something I really love to do.
Give one a try and let us know how it goes.