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Professional Networking: Five Creative Network Strengtheners - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Five Creative Network Strengtheners

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: Five Creative Network Strengtheners

We've dedicated a lot of space to attending networking events, avoiding networking events, holding networking events, and networking on the fly, and one thematic thread that has remained constant is the idea that your network is more than a virtual Rolodex of names that might someday be profitable for you. Effective networking is first about relationships, and relationships don't exist only on first Thursdays at the corner pub. Good networkers know always to look out for each other, to offer friendship on a professional level.

There's certainly nothing wrong with sending out calendars and mousepads every Christmas with the company logo printed on them, but to keep your network vibrant, consider the occasional random act of professional kindness. There are the old stand-bys, of course: tickets your company has acquired to some sporting event or a seats at the corporate table your company purchased for an annual four-star, catered fundraiser are always appreciated. But there's no reason to stop there. Consider simple gestures one doesn't see every day that can really help a contact out, one that can inspire similar pay-it-forward actions that spread your good will beyond even your awareness or personal benefit. Take these five slightly different ideas as they are, or customize them to make the most of your resources in strengthening your relationships.

1. Invitations to the latest social media launch
The big thing in creating social media buzz lately has been to offer early signups by invitation only. New invitees are usually given a small number of invitations to pass along. If the new service is especially hot, you might even see public requests for invitations by people who want in. When these invitations come your way, think of people in your network who would be most excited--not necessarily your best friends--to get in. Send short emails or instant messages asking if these contacts would like invitation links, and if they say yes, send the links with messages like, "Have fun, and don't forget to add me as a friend!"

2. Social media territory-grabs on behalf of contacts
For new social media services whose doors are flung wide open, there can sometimes be a rush for prime namespace. If you have friends whose personal or professional brands might be at risk (as with a state or city name, for example), sign yourself up, then quickly sign up and grab user names on behalf of your contacts (you will probably need a few unique emails to execute this properly). Send an email or instant message to your contacts, saying, "This new social network has promise! I grabbed your namespace for you, and here's the login info."

3. Parking
Parking is a ridiculous concern so much of the time. If you have control over parking in a hot part of town, offer your spaces to a few contacts if some big event is coming up at which parking can be difficult to get. Even when your offer is declined, everyone remembers the person who offered free parking when spaces are at a premium. Or give standing invitations: "If you ever need secure parking on a Friday evening, just drop me a line..."

4. Work space or meeting space
We all need to get away from our own spaces once in a while. If you have space that might be useful to others, whether for a meeting, a lunch, or just some solo get-work-done time, make it known to your contacts (and remind them once in a while) that you'll welcome them or their visitors. This really applies to any other resources at your disposal, such as tables and chairs, company vehicles, kitchens, refrigerator space, or networked conference rooms.

5. Conference or training attendance
If you're registering members of your team for some kind of group attendance at a conference or training seminar, purchase a few extra spaces and offer them to your contacts for distribution to members of their teams. This is a great gesture with application in almost any field. It can make people feel special to receive a note that says, "We're attending a seminar on ______ in a couple of weeks, and we have some extra seats. Would you and three of your team like to join us?" In addition to its simply being a considerate gesture one doesn't see every day, it provides instant common ground for future conversations.

Be creative, be bold, and be thoughtful. Opportunities for making considerate, kind, useful gestures are all around you on a daily basis, and if you're thinking about how you can be of value to those around you, it won't be difficult to come up with your own signature ideas.


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Professional Networking: Five Creative Network Strengtheners - Executive Leadership Articles

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