Strengthening your personal and professional network

Tips to develop relationships that matter.

Everyone needs help sometimes. Whether you need someone to let your dog outside when you are running late or could use a strong reference when applying for a job, you need to rely on other people. We lean on our personal and professional networks to reach our goals and make it through challenging times. So, how do you strengthen your network?

In the first article of this series, “Increase your network through volunteerism,” we looked at how volunteering provides an opportunity to expand your network and meet new people. The next step is developing a relationship beyond that of acquaintances.

Here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension to help build relationships once you meet someone you would like to add to your network.

  • Carve out some time. Arrive to meetings, school events, conferences and other events early or stay a little late. Socializing before or after an existing meeting or event allows you a low-risk opportunity to get to know someone and see if there is a connection. If you are attending the same event, you already have something in common.
  • Set the cell phone, tablet and other devices down. Take the earbuds out. If you are focused on technology, you send a message to others that says “stay away.”
  • Schedule a time to meet. You might feel awkward or vulnerable asking, but this can be done casually. “I would love to continue this conversation. Would you be interested in grabbing coffee or lunch next week?”
  • Talk and listen. Focusing too much on one of these can make it difficult to connect because relationships require two-way conversation. Share your personal interests and ask questions to get to know others better.
  • Take a few notes. When someone gives you a business card, write a note on the back to remind yourself what you talked about. This is particularly helpful at conferences or events where you are meeting many people in a short period of time.
  • Reach out. Whether you call, send an email or connect via social media, your goal is to take an action that allows the relationship to move forward.
  • Connect regularly. Do not wait until you need a reference or help to reach out again. Use your calendar to remind yourself to touch base periodically or set up a regularly occurring appointment to connect.

It takes a little work to build your network, but it is well worth the time to develop relationships that enrich your life.

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