In our social world, our success online increasingly relies upon the connections we have, and the people we can call upon to help us. Too often however we approach building those networks as a task to tick off of our to do lists. The problem with this approach, aside from the inherent lack of authenticity in the approach, is that it tends to leave relationship building until it’s too late. It forces you to get right down to business, making your request for assistance before you’ve had any chance to build a rapport or relationship with that person.
The strongest connections develop through shared experiences, and cultivating a network requires thought, organisation and attention. Relationships may not pay off for many years. To sustain them, they need to be real.
You need to find common ground that you can use to build the relationship and also broaden your range of contacts so you’re not just chasing people in power or that can do things for you.
Relationships may not pay off until years later, when both people have developed in their careers and moved up the ranks. Senior executives had to start their career somewhere, so you shouldn’t brush off those lower down the food chain because you don’t think they’re worth your time.
The relationships that really count are those where you have a strong bond. It’s when you know little things like when their birthdays are or their favourite football club. Those small things make relationships lasting.
Above all, maintaining relationships is a social activity so try and make it as fun as possible. Your job is in effect just one big social exercise, and whilst technology is merging our professional and social lives, this is something that most good networkers have lived for some time anyway.
So rather than seeking the quick wins with your networking, just relax and enjoy getting to know the various people out there on the web. The benefits will come in their own good time.