To keep your professional network going, you must consider it a valuable asset that’s critical for your career. Just as you wouldn’t leave money under your mattress unattended, hoping that there’ll be sufficient funds to retire, the same is true of your professional connections. Like investing and balancing the risk of your nest egg for your future needs, you must manage your network for the long term.
Like a young professional saving for retirement, who starts by putting a small amount of money aside each month by cutting out his twice-a-day fancy $3.00 cup of coffee. While it may take a few weeks to break the habit, at the end of a year, he’s saved over $1,500. Similarly, you can do the same thing for your networking. Do one small action a day and it adds up to 365 networking connections in one year.
Here are five steps to help you integrate networking into your regular schedule even when you don’t think that you have the time. In today’s world, professional and social media network are intertwined.
- Start by determining your networking goals.
- Make it specific. For example, I want to make 100 new professional contacts.
- Break goals into small, achievable short-term chunks to make them manageable. For example, I will connect with eight new people a month or two people a week. Stated this way it sounds easy.
- Find a few minutes in the course of a workday that would otherwise pass unproductively. Here are a few options to help get you thinking:
- Having your second morning coffee at the office.
- Waiting for your commuter train and the time on the train.
- Working out on the treadmill at the gym.
- Waiting for your kids when you’re carpooling.
- Watching television with the family (not just the ads)
- Make a date with yourself to do one thing a day during one of these unproductive periods. Consider it a networking snack. This way it sounds like a treat because you’re taking care of yourself for the long-term.
- Set up a calendar of dates each week to network. Each week should have five networking dates. During each networking date, focus on a manageable networking tasks. Do a variety of them over the course of a week. This way you establish the habit of setting up a routine and do a variety of networking activities, including the ones you like and the ones you don’t like. If you miss a day, don’t worry about. Just keep going with the rest of your list. Here are some alternatives.
- Call up and see how they’re doing in real time.
- Email an article to a current member of your network.
- Send a follow up email or LinkedIn request to people you met at business events. Also, add the information to your rolodex with notes on their interests and how you met.
- Recognize them on Twitter.
- Comment on their Facebook page.
- Keep track of your progress at the end of the week. This will help you feel that you’re building your network.
The objective is to integrate building your professional circle into your regular schedule. Over time you should be able to make a habit of doing these activities and having fun with them. The bonus is that it’ll give you a sense of doing something good for yourself.
Is there anything else that you’d add to this list to help others with their professional networking? If so, please add it to the comment section below.
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Photo credit: PLCMC training account via Flickr