Most people would probably agree that building and effectively utilizing a strong professional network to create success is simply not an option. Yet when it comes right down to it, many people avoid networking like the plague.

Women, in particular, shy away from the networking process for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that women are uncomfortable with the idea that they must sell themselves, their product or their service to others. Women often mistakenly believe that if they work hard their efforts will automatically be noticed and rewarded; they convince themselves that networking isn’t something that applies to them. When they aren’t recognized for their contributions or their business is moving at a snail’s pace, women feel frustrated wondering why all their hard work is going nowhere.

Well, ladies, perhaps it’s because no one knows about your great work, your great product or service. There is no such thing as build it and they will come. You’ve got to get out there!
Successful Networking Requires a Plan

In Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited, Gerber tells us that we must work “on” our business and our careers, as well as work “in” them. Yet we may find ourselves in constant conflict with the multitude of priorities vying for our time that we end up living life tactically day to day. The key is to step back to gain some perspective, evaluate where we are today, decide where we want to go and then create the plan to get there. Otherwise, we may find ourselves in years to come wondering where the time has gone. Remember that it is NEVER too late…start from wherever you are right now!

Making it Fun

Let’s dispel the myth that “networking is painful” right now. Most of us don’t learn a system for building a strong and viable network that is worked in a consistent way. Start thinking of networking as a process – a journey – rather than an event. It is a skill that anyone can learn and by utilizing key principles you will find that attending networking events and managing your personal network can be fun, as well as financially rewarding.
For many women the hang up may be that they see networking as a one-way exchange…somebody is selling to somebody else. But what if you flipped that idea and approached networking as an opportunity to assist someone else achieve success first without expecting anything in return?

Creating connections is about building relationships, connecting with others, something women do very well. Look at this process as just that – a process. Building a great network takes time and nurturing. You work on it a little more each time. Remember that life is about living – having fun – achieving our desires! A powerhouse network can help you get there more quickly.
Attract What You Want!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or on a deserted island somewhere, you’ve heard about The Secret. How could you not? The level of buzz is eardrum bursting at this point, and the phenomenal success is thanks in large part to Oprah. Awareness of the book and movie were propelled into superstardom when she had author, Rhonda Byrne and several of the Law of Attraction experts appear as guests on her show. The Secret – which of course isn’t really a secret at all – exposes us to the universal principle of Law of Attraction. Essentially, the Law of Attraction boils down to this one idea - like attracts like.

Think about that concept in terms of your networking efforts. If like attracts like then it seems important to start with a clearly defined goal for your networking efforts. Otherwise, you are more likely to attract things that are disjointed, perhaps waste your time and lead you nowhere. You’ve got to be clear about what it is you want. Is it to attract that next job? Are you thinking about starting your own business and want to learn more? Just moved to the area and want to collaborate with others in your field? Having that clarity will pay off as you build your network. It will allow you to focus you time, money and energy in the right places.

A Simple Networking Process

Once you have clarified what you want to accomplish, it is time to put a few simple practical steps into place and watch your networking attitude and efforts improve.

• Write down your goals – writing down your goals makes it much more likely that you will accomplish them. You are making a commitment to yourself when you write down goals and then focus your attention on achieving them.

• Choose your activities wisely – ROPE in that calendar by getting the greatest return on personal effort. Don’t confuse activity with effectiveness. Carefully evaluate the types of events and activities to ensure they best suit the networking objectives you’ve outlined for yourself. On any given day, anywhere in the world there are hundreds of networking opportunities. It’s important to choose carefully.

• Create a database to track your network – managing your network is more than just entering names into your contact database. These days utilizing technology to build, manage and follow up with your network has never been easier. The key to a strong network that works for you is ongoing, consistent and relevant contact. Products like ACT! from Sage Software are designed for just that purpose. To help you get the most out of your relationships.

• Map your network – here’s where quality versus quantity becomes key. You might think the best thing to do is to collect a bunch of names in order to build one big massive mailing list. While marketing to the masses can be good depending on what you do and what you’re selling, most of the time you need to better target your efforts. You need a way to “segment” your contacts to determine who you should connect with more frequently and on what particular topics.

• Keep it real – follow the pay-it-forward philosophy of giving to others as you attend events or make connections for people within your network. Make it your goal to collect business cards – not just hand yours out! This focuses your attention on meeting others to learn more about what they do, always with a goal of finding ways to help them to be successful. As you focus your attention on helping others, others will naturally want to help you too.

• Block time weekly to focus on building the strength of your network – your network develops over time and as mentioned earlier, it is a process rather than an event. Each month set networking goals for yourself. For example, during April you will attend 3 networking functions, call 20 people and connect 5 people to each other. Then plan your networking efforts accordingly each week to support your monthly goals.

Building strong relationships is the key to greater opportunity, happiness, joy, fun and income. Take your networking efforts seriously. Give yourself permission to try new things and ask others to help you achieve your goals. Remember that like attracts like, so focus your thoughts, emotions and actions accordingly. So get out there and start building that powerhouse network today!

Author's Bio: 

With a mission to IGNITE passion, purpose and profits in the workplace, Talent Builders, Inc., is a leading provider of people development products and programs. We work with clients to create solutions that increase sales, develop leaders, improve customer satisfaction, engage employees, and increase retention.

Talent Builders CEO and Chief Talent Officer Barbara Giamanco capped a corporate sales career at Microsoft, where she led and trained sales teams and coached executives, before establishing Talent Builders, Inc. in 2002. Since establishing Talent Builders, Barb has worked with organizations to build high performing executive teams, develop leadership bench strength, improve communication, increase sales, hire the right people the first time, decrease turnover and improve employee retention. She is also the co-founder of the Women’s Mentor Network. For more information call 404-459-4030 or visit: www.talentbuildersinc.com