|© bmljenny on Flickr|
I was recently looking through my contacts for a specific reason and found many opportunities in other areas, and I also learned more about the status of my network on several levels. Our networks are becoming increasingly important for our professional success, present and future, and they are in a sense ‘living’ so we should tend to them regularly to keep them alive and thriving. I thought about the benefits of tending to my network periodically, say quarterly, and here are my suggestions for the process.
- Make a list of opportunity areas. Start by identifying all of the areas which you’re looking for opportunities or need growth in. For example, it could be prospecting for your own business or for your clients or colleagues. By now, you know it’s all about karma, so try to think of some ways you could help others. Also think about events that are coming up that you might meet someone at, topics you’d like to learn more about, and areas in which you’d like to improve your network.
- Make a list of contact lists. If you’re like me, your contacts don’t just exist in one application. Think about places like your personal email application, CRM, LinkedIn, email marketing application, and social media contacts. After you do this you’ll realize these lists are likely fragmented and you’ll need to spend time updating information as you go through the lists. Also, you should look into ways of syncing the information–for example, should you export LinkedIn contacts to update your personal email application? Something to think about as you go through your contacts. If you send a electronic holiday cards like we do, now might be a good time to mark people you’d like to send them to.
- Look through your contacts. Grab a cup of coffee and take at least an hour to look through all of your contacts. You may be tempted to use search features to narrow down the results for pressing opportunities, but resist this temptation and you’ll soon see the benefits. Hopefully, by browsing, you’ll see things you wouldn’t with a targeted search. Note all contacts relevant to your opportunities, and new ideas may also strike you. Be social and reach out to those who have moved, you’ll likely be surprised at the number of updates. You know we’re big fans of face to face contact–why not plan to spend one day a week or month meeting up with a colleague ‘just because’?
- Spread a little good karma. Colleague/friend Holly Barnes recently shared a link about how connecting people in your network is a great practice. To me, the article explains a quite lengthy process that I’m not sure I’d have time for on a regular basis, but you get the idea that good karma is something you can never give (and get) enough of. Think of colleagues looking for a job, those that have recently moved, etc.
- Rinse and repeat. Hopefully you’ve found some great opportunities and learned more than you expected. Growing your network will multiply these benefits, so hopefully this realization will result in more regular growing and tending to your network. It might be a good idea to set calendar reminders to help. It’s also a good time to review your network–is it weak in certain areas? If so, target them and set goals to improve your network in a geographic area, topic, expertise level, etc.
In these days of information overload, we tend to rely on searches for everything, and forget that browsing can result in serendipities that are made more powerful by today’s tools and the simple act of building a good quality network. The image for this post is from another colleague/friend Jenny Reiswig who ‘seeks out serendipity’ in her photography by visiting interesting places like Twentynine Palms. Perhaps it is a very loosely connected metaphor (the photos are gorgeous, I couldn’t resist), but do the work and you never know what you might find.
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