Build Your Network Before You Need It

I recently dined with an old friend who had just gone through a tough time. His company downsized and he lost his job. This was on December 20. By the end of January, he was employed. He didn’t settle for just any job either, but landed an executive position in his industry—and makes more than he did previously.

I was surprised by just how quickly he landed the job. I asked him how he found his new company, and he said a friend he worked with 20 years ago referred him. She left that company, but they stayed in touch. Every couple of months they chatted on the phone or had dinner.

She called to wish him happy holidays and he mentioned he lost his job. She told him to enjoy the holidays and start his job search after the New Year. On January 3 or 4, she called back with a job lead. Long story short, she recommended him and he got the job.

This brings me to an important bit of life and career success advice:

“Build and nurture a strong personal network before you need it.”

If you wait until you need something to begin networking, you’re too late.  My friend kept up with his colleague for many years—and they did what friends do. That’s what networking is about—building and maintaining friendships.

My friend’s story is a great illustration of networking. To put it into Stephen Covey’s words, they both had big balances in each other’s emotional bank accounts (if you don’t know what I mean here, read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Both made regular deposits over time. When my friend needed help, she was there.

There is a common sense point here: You imprison yourself if you go it alone. We all need people to grow and succeed—both professionally and personally. Building and nurturing strong relationships is a key to creating success.

Tweet 129 in my book, Success Tweets: “There is no quid pro quo in effective relationships.” Build your network by creating strong relationships—not because people could help you, but because you value them.

How do you build strong relationships? Give with no expectation of return. Think, “How can I help this person?”

This is a quid pro quo world: You do for me, I’ll do for you. But the problem with this: It is reactive, not proactive and derived from a “scarcity” mentality. Too many people wait for others to go first. Their attitude: “When and if you do something for me, I’ll do something for you.” This doesn’t build strong networks, and in fact, keeps you focused on holding onto what you have—which can prevent you from receiving what you might get.

But paying it forward, giving with no expectation of return, comes from a proactive abundance mentality. So stay in touch with friends as well as colleagues. Help them out when they get into a bind. Build your network before you need it and it will be there when you do.

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