When it comes down to progress in life – be it advancing professionally or maturing personally, a lot of your success hinges on the ability to build better relationships.
Think about phrases like, “The customer is always right,” and “Be Our Guest.” Both place value on the relationship experience between two or more individuals and that relationship resulting in a positive experience.
For this reason, networking is an essential tool in building better business and personal relationships. Say you’re a self-employed business owner just getting started. You need to use the skills you practice when networking to build relationships with others that will help to make your endeavor a success: think negotiating with vendors, working with suppliers, contractors, and later, maybe even communicating your mission to future employees. You’ll also have to satisfy clients and customers.
More than a Business Card Exchange
Remember that networking is far more than a meet-up between professionals to share business cards and to pitch business ideas. Your aim should be to get to know people on both a business and personal level, to build your network, and therefore your referral network. The slow-but-steady process should eventually generate business for you. The key is to keep at it, to be genuine, and to give as equally as you receive.
Building your network is a strategic practice. You must be diligent in making connections with others, in committing to taking the time to get out to events, or even to signing up where you can meet others virtually. Check in by making a call. Celebrate a milestone by sending a card. You should form quality relationships, a few at a time, each time you network. Then, set up your own meet-ups. Go to lunch or help a new friend with a volunteer project. Be sure to follow-up when you offer a referral and establish yourself as a reliable resource and friend.
Much of this may seem to boil down to practicing common courtesy, and it does. But remember that the act of networking is something you should be purposeful about from the outset. Show up. Share a bit about yourself. Be a good listener, and follow through on promises. Do this and you’re well on your way to establishing meaningful, lasting relationships.
Nikki Murry is editor of Berks County Living magazine and a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and blogger. In her free time she is an active dog rescue volunteer and enjoys spending time with her 16-year-old son, Riley, and her three dogs: Figgy and Shelly, French Bulldogs, and Bruno, a Boston Terrier.