Networking is about relationships. It’s about reaching out to and staying in touch with people.
Networking is broader than just who you know, and crafting healthy relationships is more involved
than simply increasing the number of friends you have on Facebook. While it’s important to build new relationships, it’s just as important to maintain your current relationships with friends, colleagues and clients. Some quick tips include:

  • Keep up with people (send postcards when you travel – what a fun way to reach out!)
  • Take care of people (clients included!)
  • Stay organized to stay connected

Many of you are doing this and much more, and may not have realized you were already networking. Likewise, I initially didn’t even think about how what I was doing translated into networking opportunities. However, I became more deliberate about my networking as family, friends, and colleagues began to comment about what a great networker I am.

Several years ago, I worked at a large PR agency for just over two years. When I left that agency to get married and move across the country with my Air Force husband, I reached out. I had met a woman who owned her own firm and was interested in partnering with my former agency. I called her before I left to ensure she had the appropriate contacts in my absence. My phone call directly led to her offering me freelance work. I called to take care of her, and in the process, she ended up taking care of me.

As Juli Monroe said in The Enthusiastic Networker, “In life, it’s not the one who dies with the most contacts who wins. It’s the one who has the most people speaking, with love and respect, at his or her funeral.” Many people think of networking as schmoozing at cocktail parties or sealing business deals on the golf course, and certainly that can be part of your networking repertoire, but honestly it’s about helping others. Successful networkers are people who others like, trust and ultimately refer.

Although networking is about selflessly taking care of people, be mindful not to become a referral service. A good Army friend of mine secured an internship at his company for my nephew who had just lost his co-op due to the economy. Thankfully, it paid off for all of us as my nephew is now a valued asset to my friend’s company. I knew my nephew’s work ethic and that of his parents so felt assured he would make me proud. However, I want to stress again to only refer people on whom you would stake your reputation, not just because they are family or a good friend.

Of course, it’s much easier to become a good networker if you’re organized. Get organized! Update your calendar with birthdays and anniversaries, pay attention to status changes in employment or family. Send articles or job opportunities you see to those who will benefit. But whether you send greeting cards to friends and colleagues on important holidays or for particular events, or you’d rather reach out via social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, stay connected!