How to Create Relationships that Build Your Network

December 5, 2022

Pictured: 2 hands, a pen, and a card that reads: "Thank you for meeting with me today."A common trend with networking is the lack of follow-up. We connect with people on LinkedIn, during networking events, or at conferences, and then months go by without any additional interaction. Over time, we forget where we met the person, they forget about us, and then we never reconnect.

Building, following up, and staying connected to your network takes time and effort. If you don’t make the effort to stay in touch with a new person that you just met, your connection with that person was merely a transaction, not the beginning of a relationship. That means you’re missing the opportunity to add them to your network.

It also means you’re wasting your time! All that networking effort goes to waste when you don’t do the follow-up work to build a relationship with them.

The power of your network and its usefulness is based on the strength of your relationships with the people you know.

The whole point of meeting people and getting to know them is so that you can strengthen your network. When you do this, you increase the number of people you can turn to when you need help, be it with your job search, going for your next promotion, or support for a project you’re working on.

But just meeting a person once and not talking to them again is not enough. That’s just a transactional exchange and it doesn’t add them to your network.

To add someone to your network, you need to connect and communicate with them multiple times. This means following up, scheduling another time to talk, meeting up with them again at another event, and so on.

Your main driver might be to get to know the other person better because you anticipate asking them to help you in the future. However, the focus should be on helping them.

Building lasting relationships within your network is all about the other person, not about you.

It’s when you help other people that you build the true bedrock of your relationship.

Maya Angelou said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When you build a relationship with the people in your network so that you can help them, you make them feel supported and safe. They, in turn, will be there for you when you need them.

Perhaps this goes without saying but I want to be clear that this doesn’t apply to every interaction. Not everyone you meet will be a good fit, and that one-time interaction may be enough.

But for many of the people you meet along the way, it will serve you to move beyond the initial meet up and build a relationship with them.

How do to move an encounter from a simple transactional experience to a network-building relationship?

I mentioned at the beginning that it’s a common trend to not follow up after meeting someone for the first time. It’s too bad this is the case, because following up is a great place to begin!

After meeting someone for the first time, if you feel like they are someone who would be a great addition to your network or think you may be helpful to them in some way, follow up your initial meeting with an email or, better, a hand-written card.

It need only include a statement or two, saying that it was nice to meet them and proposing a next time to connect. If you met at a networking event, you could suggest that you make a point to cross paths at the next event. Or if you’d like to have a more focused opportunity to talk with them, consider meeting over coffee.

If you’re going to put out the effort to meet people and build your network, don’t waste your time by only meeting people once and leaving the rest to chance. Put in a little more effort; follow up with them and schedule your next meetup. This will help you build a strong network full of people that you know and can rely on, because they know they can rely on you.

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