The Layers of Connecting

Published by


shallow focus photography of pancakes with blueberries and syrup

You’re at a conference. (Ok, let’s pretend you’re at a conference because no one is doing these right now.) So anyway, you’re at a conference and you meet someone you really enjoy talking with and you want to be cordial and supportive. You know that connecting people and showing value is a great way to build relationships.

So you decide to connect your new friend with an old one who is a perfect connection for them and can help in a big way.

You’re all excited about making this connection and you vow to your new friend that you will make that connection tomorrow afternoon over LinkedIn.  

But then you go to look up your old friend and you discover that they are no longer in the same industry, job, or even country since you last spoke with them. In fact, it looks like they would not be a good connection for your new friend.

Dang, what to do now?

Well, you can still reach out to that old friend of yours to see how they are doing and determine if they could still be of help to your new friend. And more importantly, you might want to take steps to make sure that you keep your network fresh, strong, and ever-expanding, kind of like a spiderweb .

So, what are the steps to keeping your network Fresh?

Nobody likes the smell of a stale relationship. So, you have to keep it fresh.

How do you do that? You follow simple rules.

  1. When you meet someone new, follow up the next day.
  2. Follow up again next week.
  3. Follow up again each month.

You do this to ensure that your new connection is a good fit for your network and you each offer mutual value. You also do this to stay apprised of any new information or changes in their work, their passions, or their demographics (i.e. family status, job status, geographic location, etc.)

Now, if you find that your new connection is not responsive in this one day, one week, one month cadence, try for a follow up after one year. When you follow up, remind them of how you met to see if there is still some interest.

If not, you can safely delete or disconnect from that contact. No need in keeping your network overcrowded. You need to keep focused on the real network you’re strengthening.

Speaking of strength, let’s explore what actions to take to develop and maintain a strong network.

  1. Don’t sell.
  2. Provide value.
  3. Follow up on what you say you are going to do.

Obviously, you want to be positive and appreciative when emailing, texting, or conversing with a colleague. Besides that, you want to be a good listener. Don’t use your connection points as sales calls.

You are not trying to sell yourself or your product or service when you are calling upon your network.

You are building your network muscles by developing relationships.

Now, on the flipside of that, you always want to try to provide some value to the conversation.

Send an article you think your colleague might appreciate. Make a referral. Ask if there is any way you can help or support.

These are all easy ways to value-add and build stronger relationships.

And if you are called upon for support or you promise to do something, don’t forget to do what you say you are going to do. If you can, do it immediately. If you cannot, write it down or time-block that action on your calendar.

And speaking of the calendar, you always want to be expanding the reach of your network.

Follow these steps to explore new ways to meet new people.

  1. Get active on LinkedIn (or Facebook if that is where your people are).
  2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Get involved with trade organizations.

If you want to grow your network, you’re going to have to get out to where other professional are.

LinkedIn is a great place to find professionals in your industry or any other. Make a habit of posting, commenting, or if you’re just starting out, liking and reacting to other people’s posts. Once you’ve liked or commented, reach out to other people who also like or comment on that post.

But don’t just send a connection request. Be sure to add a note and lead with your connection to that post. Doing this helps the other person find a reason to allow you into their network, and it breaks the ice for future conversation.

While that works for your online presence and digital networking efforts, don’t sleep on your local Chamber of Commerce and other trade organizations.

These can be the lifeblood of your network.

But only if you actually get involved. It doesn’t really help you to put the sticker in your window or have the badge on your website. You need to get engaged. Join a committee, become an ambassador, make friends with the board members.

But don’t stop there, make it a habit to volunteer at events. Organizations loooove volunteers and often will grant you free access to the event.

Sure, it might cost you a few hours per month, but think of all the opportunities you’ll have to meet new people and share your work and interests with other like-minded professionals.

And if networking is not your thing, volunteering is exactly what you should do. It reduces anxiety because the spotlight is not on you. You’re simply helping the organization and facilitating a successful event. You never have to talk about yourself if you don’t want to, but you’ll still get to meet everyone who attends.

Volunteering may be the single strongest secret weapon in building your network.

So, how will you change your behaviors to keep your network fresh? How will you provide value and deliver on promises to keep your network strong? And how will get more active and involved to ensure you are always expanding the scope of your network?

This may sound like a lot of extra work, but it really only amounts to a few changed behaviors and a couple of extra hours per month. Isn’t it worth it to make sure your network is strong enough to hold you when you need it?

Your Mindful Moment:

Building your network is developing relationships to fortify your worth as a trusted advisor.

%d bloggers like this: