Making the Most of your Network

The fact that you’re reading this shows that my network is working.
We are connected through one of the social media sites, either directly or indirectly.  If directly, we likely have a relationship of some sort in the ‘real world’.
Building and cultivating a network isn’t about how many ‘friends’ or ‘connections’ you have, it’s about truly building relationships.  This cannot simply be done with the press of a button.  The word ‘work’ is key when building your network.
Being connected isn’t just about you and building your numbers. It’s about both parties, and sometimes it’s about a 3rd party. Cultivating connections takes time and effort.  It also takes maintenance.  While it is great to have a contact that you can benefit from, it’s just as good to have a contact that someone ELSE can benefit from.
A good network is not static; it is living, breathing, and dynamic.  The thing to remember is not the number of connections, it’s the people behind those numbers.  People change jobs, volunteer for different organizations, relocate, marry, and connect with others.  Keeping up with the moving parts within your network takes dedication.  Utilizing that network to benefit others is a key trait of a successful connector.
Sure, you can build a giant network of numbers, but unless it is effective, it’s just a collection of names.
I prefer to look at my network not as the whole, but as the people it is comprised of.  It is about who I’m connected to, and HOW we’re connected.  Why did we invite each other?  What do we have in common?  Who else in my network can benefit from this?
I use my network for several things.  It is a great resource for volunteers, donors, and potential Board Members for the non-profit organizations that I’m affiliated with.  I use my network to build my business, and to help others grow theirs.  I also use my network to help people find new jobs or connect with new organizations.  I maintain my network by bringing these people together socially.  Sending an email may be an efficient way to communicate during a busy workday, but spending time getting to know people is what makes it all work.  Finally, my network uses me.  This is the best part about having an active network, it’s not just yours, it’s ours.  I’m not just cultivating a network, I’m a member of it.
I am always meeting new people, and open to new connections.  When I do, it’s not about ‘what can this person do for me’, but ‘how can I, my network, and this person benefit from one another’.  Sometimes, maybe most times, the answer isn’t immediately apparent.   The willingness to take time, to learn, to relate, and to help is what makes it all worthwhile.
So don’t hesitate to connect with someone new.  Just be sure to do it for all the right reasons.
You’ll reap the rewards of putting work into your network.

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