Nurturing Your Network

Networking is one of the most important activities that an entrepreneur can do. The problem is that many people don’t do it right. The current attitude of the “me generation” certainly lends to the passion and drive of the American Dream; the pursuit of wealth and success. But on the way, some people forget to nurture and build their networks. For most, this makes that American Dream that much more inaccessible. You can’t do it alone, so you’re eventually going to need the support of others. Once you’ve built a network, you need to nurture it for it to become useful to you.

A Story About A Colleague

A young entrepreneur colleague of mine has an incredible sense of drive and enthusiasm. He’s 22 years old. He’s even pretty smart, which lends to his success attributes. However, he absolutely fails at networking. He recently solicited my advice about his problem, and I wanted to share it with others in this article.

I pointed out to him that while he was good at meeting people, and great at letting people know (including me) what he was working on, he never sincerely asked his colleagues what they were working on, or how he could help. He shared with me the thought that he felt his work was more important and had a lot of excitement around it. I’m certain that many others share his position with their own projects. However, he clearly overlooked that others associate this behavior with being self-centered or uncaring. No one wants to help someone who doesn’t exhibit the ability to help in return (that’s questionably self-centered as well, but that’s beyond the purpose of this article).

While I know without a doubt that he’s not intending to be this way, a little bit of effort from now on, and he’ll experience a valuable return from his network one day.

Ways To Nurture Your Network

Many people find themselves with a large network, but no way to harness it. Here are a few ways you can nurture your network so that, eventually, it can become useful, meaningful, and profitable to you in the future.

    1. Request status updates by touching base. Showing interest strengthens your relationship.

    2. Share status updates with others upon their request and even when they don’t ask for it. Share it in a personal and meaningful way, and definitely not as an advertisement.

    3. Be open to collaboration! You can use the help. And if you are helping a colleague, they are more likely to help you when you need it most. Working together only strengthens your initiatives and doesn’t mean you’re giving up control or ownership.

    4. Find out how you can help, then do it. You’re busy and have very little time for yourself anyway, so giving a small piece can seem wasteful. Think of it like you would an investment. Chances are that you can discover small things that will help your colleague. This shows support and validation to your contact, both of which you’ll need later on.

    5. As much as you think you do, you don’t know everything about everything, or even about your field, so don’t act like it. Solicit and value feedback and advice from your network. Be open to the opinions of others, even if it conflicts with your convictions.

    6. Connect people in your network with each other. Once you have a strong network of people who trust and value you, one of the easiest but most important networking responsibilities is introductions and connecting other people together. For this to flourish, you will absolutely need up-to-date statuses on their needs and activities.

These steps take commitment and effort, but if you apply them, you will see fruitful returns from your networking investments.

21 thoughts on “Nurturing Your Network

  1. heathcole says:

    I could not agree more on the topic of networking. At my current job, networking is what keeps me in a job. In this time of economic instability, the more you network the more you come to be viewed as indispensable to the company and to your network buddies. Being open to helping others when they are in a jam will get you help when you need it. Cooperation and team work, as cliche as they sound, are key.

  2. Lisa C says:

    I am self employed and in sales. I agree that networking can make or break your business–especially during tough economic times like these. I have found in my business that referrals from my networking contacts brings me between 30% and 40% of my new business every year.

    You may a great point that sincerely asking how someone else’s business is doing, and actually listening to their answers is key in successful networking. I think that is my downfall. Its not that I’m not interested, its just that there is so much going on in my head for my own business, that I don’t always fully listen to what others are going through. And in not listening, I am missing opportunities to help them–and ultimately, help myself.

  3. Rachel S says:

    I am currently going to school for photography and hope to be able to do mostly freelance work after I graduate. Thank you so much for the information on networking, I had never thought about it like that, since I am an artist I have never really thought about how to build a successful photography venture, I just thought about my art. With the few simple suggestions that you have I think that not only will I be successful in my freelance venture, but I may be able to help someone else in their endeavors. I also feel that my art will be more successful if I could add an extra factor like networking into my business plan, thanks again!

  4. Nickernacker says:

    I’ve never been good at networking. In fact, my apparent inability to network is what’s keeping me from advancing in my career. This article, though, explained what I’m doing wrong and what to do instead. In fact, I’m bookmarking it so that I can link it to interns.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  5. syfer2 says:

    i totally agree that networking is something that many people do wrong and then pretend like they know everything about it and give false information to other people. but the fact is many people are to independent or shy to ask for help when they need it. to much pride will never help anyone.

  6. Lisa R. says:

    It’s great that you’re addressing this issue. I’ve seen a lot of people who think networking means amassing a huge group of contacts who will then provide them with whatever resources they’re seeking. Networking, at it’s most essential, is simply creating a group of friends. They don’t have to be best-friends or over-for-dinner friends, but the important thing is that there is a sense of positive regard there. Shared values, interests, or at least a liking for each other is a key element.

    Thanks for bringing up such an important topic.

  7. James says:

    Networking was always one of my biggest business related issues. In the past I had a hard time keeping in contact with people I worked with on past gigs (I’m a web developer). While all of the ways you listed to nurture a network are certainly valid, none of them came naturally for me. What did come naturally was Twitter’ing, which I’m sure you know is accomplished through the website Twitter.com.

    Just about everyone in my field does it, and it allows you to keep up with everyone within your network (and them with you), without having to pick up the phone or remember to call. The more I Titter, the more I seem to keep in contact with people!

  8. smallone says:

    The subject of networking is one of the most important practices in business and relationships that many tend to fail at. I have learned that networking has so many benefits. You gain new knowledge, ideas, etc. while also sharing what you know. I agree with you in being open to collaboration. So many people tend to be drawn into their own needs often forgetting those who are in their network. Being successful also means being successful in your networking.

  9. Quara says:

    I work in media — so my ability to do my job requires that I keep up a constant circle of contacts. I’d hit some bumps recently, in my ability to keep up with colleagues and not seem like self-serving or imposing, and I think this is excellent advice. So much of operating in the business world seems like common sense, but sometimes a little extra common sense is just what you need.

  10. chrslnrd says:

    Kevin, your article really helped me understand the importance of networking. I am terrible at networking, and I am willing to admit it. I always think I can do everything by myself. The article really breaks it down into something that seems more useful to me now. The best part about the article is rule number one: request status updates. Now that I think about it I know a few people who do that often. I guess those people would probably be a good place to start networking because they are probably already interested in it.

  11. Big T says:

    Overall I really agree with this and it would be very helpful to anyone in buisness, but for tip 5 i think that showing that you know your field is important, but i agree that acepting all input tin very important to buisness relationships. Also for tip 4 helping is really a very important for mutual relationships as showing that support and helping when needed can really save you when you need the help. This is a great article and ill be sure to show it to my friends in buisness.

  12. Sonicalal says:

    I agree that networking is very important in today’s work. Whether it be business or personal relationships networking plays a major role in getting job done. Networking works both ways, if you help others, you will most likely be reciprocated in future. There are some individuals who do not bother to network. They think about their immediate gains and are not worried or concerned about other’s problems.

  13. Diane Wyley says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article on Nuturing a Network. I found it very informative. It was an article that was easy to read and understand. I especially liked the examples that were given. At the end the how to was very good and the whole article was written in a way a personson could understand.

  14. joan i. says:

    I found this article very helpful as I’m starting to try to build a network at my new job. However I’m finding it a bit difficult. The job requires long hours and a lot of work and I’m always busy. Plus, I’m not really a people person. Regardless, I know how it can be good for my career. I will use the tips in this article and get back to you as soon as I get some feedback.

  15. Thanks for an interesting and pertinent article. This is something I really want to work on consciously. Often we are so excited about our own efforts, that we forget to notice or comment on those of our associates. You do a very good job of illustrating that nurturing the social network is something that requires conscious effort and does not “just happen”. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  16. Today no business succeeds without networking. Networking brings in more ideas, business opportunities and so on. This is a good article on how to build strong business network. Its a good article on how to nurture a good business networking.

  17. pushpdeep says:

    it is great topic to be discussed, these days many people fail in there business networking because of there way of looking forward on their network the points discussed above are very essential for giving your business a boost . i am also presently in a networking business and i found this blog and have with it this has really helped me out now things have really changed. main thing i focused on is helping my network and keeping proper update with my network. follow the strategy i am getting success out of it and i am sure you will also prosper in your business.

  18. Anjali Sharma says:

    I agree that networking is very important in today’s work.Its plays a vital role in almost every field .And the 6 points mentioned in the post are of great help. The post was very informative. And every word made sense. Thank you for sharing such a good piece of information.

  19. Lucas says:

    I have several problems with making a networking, mainly beucase I´m very shy. I think sometimes shyness can be a terrible problem to create and, mainly, to nurture a network.
    Great post.

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