One of the most important activities in life in general–and certainly in business–is building and keeping a network of friends and professional colleagues. Your network will serve you well in every area of your life. At Fredrickson Communications, we believe in the importance of networking so much that we’ve founded and continue to sponsor groups like the Fredrickson Roundtable for Learning Leaders. We have been building this network for nearly two decades and we continually work to expand the group throughout the business community in the Twin Cities.

While JIT (just in time) delivery can work well in training situations, it’s definitely not a technique that works for networking. Don’t wait until you need a network to start building one.

Here are a few tips I’d like to offer you for successful networking:

  • Now (and every day) is the time to build and nurture your network. When you need it, it’s too late.

I am continually shocked at how many bright, creative people don’t make time for this important task. It may seem as if I am writing to people who are new to the business world—I’m not. I’ve coached a number of high level executives (when they have lost their jobs) who thought they didn’t have time to build a network while they were working. Wrong! It’s important to make time and to learn how to build this into a natural part of your week.

  • Networking is not, in my opinion, collecting as many business cards as you can. It’s about developing real relationships. Don’t spend any time with someone you don’t like well enough to at least share a lunch. Quality is more important than quantity.
  • A network is like a bank account–you need to pay attention to the balance. You can’t make withdrawals from your network if you haven’t made any deposits. If you feel shy in this area and need specific tips to help you, refer back to the classic work by Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People). It’s still very relevant today.

Don’t know where to start? Give your networking efforts a boost by asking yourself this: Where do my peers gather in a group? If you don’t know the answer, you have your first networking homework assignment: Find out!

For example, Fredrickson’s Learning Leadership Summit on July 21 will attract over 125 leadership-level learning professionals. If you are a manager, director, VP or other leader in the Twin Cities’ learning community, this is where your peers will be gathering. Not only will they have an opportunity to hear Beverly Kaye, but you’ll have a morning to spend with a hundred of their colleagues. Surely each and every one of them will have the opportunity to meet several new colleagues that they would like to have lunch with.

And that’s how networks are built—one person at a time.

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