It’s important to network, but it’s critical to do it in a productive way. Networking takes time…and it’s important that you be productive, not simply busy running from event to event or online group to online group. Here’s some tips to bear in mind:

1.Give First. I know that you are networking to build a business or to find a job. But networking is a two-way street. People are much more liable to offer their resources to you if they can see that you have a genuine interest and curiosity about them. Listen carefully to others and be willing to share your resources. Know that sometimes you have to “pay it forward” – you may give to a person and not see an immediate reciprocity. Over time, it will balance out as others extend themselves for you.
2.Find Others Who Give First. Only go to groups where people demonstrate the “give first” behaviors described above in regards to how they treat you. If you sense that you are in a group where people are only willing to give if they receive first, don’t bother to go back (whether on or off line). You want your network to be composed of generous souls.
3.Go Where It’s Strategic. You want to be productive in terms of going to places where either good strategic partners or clients are participating. What’s a good strategic partner? Someone else who supports the same type of industry or clients that you do.
4.Go Where You Can Be Authentic. If you feel like you have to become someone you aren’t to fit into a group, you probably don’t belong there. I’m not talking about when you stretch yourself in a positive way (i.e., networking with those who are most successful than you can be a great idea). I’m talking about when you really don’t fit and you realize you feel like you can’t share your true opinions or your authentic self. You don’t belong there if you can’t be accepted for who you are.
5.Network Deep. Relationships are the key to referrals of resources, clients and jobs. Networking deep means that you aren’t a serial networker who just trolls from event to event without forming connections. Find the groups that are right for you and network deeply within them, forming close relationships. Give people a chance to know and trust you.
Networking allows you to create new friendships and partnerships. I recently realized that I have found key friendships in the last six months through networking groups that I have joined and the relationships that I have built. I can’t imagine my life without these people now. And isn’t that one of the greatest things a solid network can bring?

Author's Bio: 

Ann Potts is an Executive Coach and founder of Executive Performance Fuel. Ann teaches businesses to reinvent themselves with productivity tools and leadership talents that she mastered in the corporate world. Her extensive leadership experience and certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt means that she can teach businesses to find ways to do more in less time. Ann teaches people to reinvent themselves by showing them how to bring their unique gifts and strengths to the forefront in their work and lives.