Relationship building is an art – it requires a lot of hard work and time. Now, more than ever, as we face the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to many facets of our lives, connections matter. Whether you are just starting your networking journey or if you have a network already established, consider these five tips to enhance your connections and your career.
1. You have to give to get, but don’t expect anything in return.
This tip really mirrors the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated. You should always strive to be helpful and take a genuine interest in others. Here are some examples:
2. Don’t be afraid to get personal with your connections.
When it comes to sharing a personal side with your professional relationships, be open. Sharing personal things like the names of your children, upcoming staycation plans or your pet’s name humanizes and personalizes you. When your professional network sees you as a “friend," it enhances the relationship and makes communication easier and more fluid.
3. Contact those you have worked with and ensure you maintain those valued relationships. Further, take the time to get to know your neighbors’, friends’ and family members’ lines of work.
First, connect with anyone that has worked above you, at the same level as you or below you. Managers and co-workers can be very valuable relationships to maintain since they can speak best to your work product and organizational culture fit.
We often forget about those closest to us. Do your friends and family know what you do? Learn what they do and where they work, too. When it comes to getting to know your personal network on a professional level, never assume that because someone isn’t in the same line of work as you that they cannot help you. Consider the people with whom you volunteer, those with whom you share a faith or belief and the people that know you from your children’s activities – all can help. These people likely know you at your core—beyond your professional work life, which can be more beneficial to relationship building.
The broader your network and the more meaningful connections you can make and maintain, the greater the universe of potential opportunities that are open to you. Give what you can, when you can, and this will help build credibility for when it’s your turn to ask a favor of someone.
4. If you want to nurture your relationships, make it simple. Consistency is key here.
It doesn’t take a lot to add value to your connections. Sometimes it means sharing an interesting article or calling to check in. Stay close to people even when there isn’t necessarily anything to “give.” Lend an ear even when there isn’t a business need.
Check in with your connections to celebrate an accomplishment or major life event. Consider sending a handwritten card or note – this adds a personal touch and more meaning than an email or text message.
5. Follow-up matters. Do not skip this step.
This is arguably the most important part of building and developing relationships. Anytime you make a connection, circle back and send a thank you note. This demonstrates that you appreciate the effort they made (no matter how small or large). Transactions are quick, but meaningful relationships are not. They take time, so it’s important to recognize it.