The value of networking is obvious. Surround yourself with successful people and it's easier for you to be successful as well.
Unfortunately, the benefits of networking are often squandered as people pursue relationships with selfish motives. To help you avoid that fate, here are five things you can do to grow your network the right way, right now.
1. Shift your mindset
The real goal of networking is to help other people.
It's much easier to build quality relationships when you help others achieve their goals instead of telling them about yours. Sure, it would be great if they put in a good word for you every now and then, but asking for favors should only become a possibility once you have provided value to them.
How to use this tip today: Instead of thinking about who you need to know, think about who you can help. How can you provide value to someone today?
2. Be more selective with your time
From time to time, most of us will go on a networking spree. We get motivated and start e-mailing hundreds of people, set up social networking accounts, and head out to local networking events.
It's fine to get motivated from time to time, but trying to be everywhere at once is going to wear you out. Furthermore, it's tough to give people the attention they deserve when you're spread so thin. (If you're checking Twitter at a networking event, then you're not really focusing on the people at either end.)
Instead of trying to be all things to all people, focus on being more things to a few of them. After all, you don't need to know the most people...just the right people.
How to use this tip today: Take a deep breath and step back from the networking chaos. Think about where your "right people" hang out. Are you looking for mentors, prospects or peers? Once you have decided, write down a few simple steps you can take to focus on that area in the coming days and weeks.
3. Actually engage with your current network
We often think about networking as a way to build new relationships, but engaging with your current contacts can be just as powerful—if not more so.
Think about all of the people you already have a warm relationship with. You know what they like and dislike. You know what skills they have and what problems they face. You might even know the names of their children.
Think about how valuable all of those relationships would be if you simply strengthened them.
How to use this tip today: Engaging with your current network is all about providing value. You already know their problems. You're aware of their interests. Now you just need to take action. Are there two people in your network that might like to know each other? Introduce them. Do you have a friend that just finished an exciting project? Promote it on Twitter or Facebook. Have your employees been struggling with a simple problem? Help them find a solution.
4. Develop a list of people to contact
Most of the time, we leave networking to chance.
We talk to the people around us instead of going out of our way to find someone new. We give a few close friends a call instead of reaching out to someone we haven't talked to in months. Essentially, we do the easy stuff and then we talk to new people when it's convenient, like at a conference.
If you're serious about building your network, however, then you need to act like it. Take some initiative and develop a list of people you want to contact.
How to use this tip today: Get on LinkedIn and browse some of the connections in your network. Sign into Facebook, search for people and see if you have any mutual friends. Think about the people in your current network. Who do your current contacts know that you would like to talk with? While you're searching, compile a list of potential contacts as well as a list of people who could introduce you to them. From there, all you need is a simple e-mail to a friend asking for an introduction.
5. Think about whether you should promote or prevent
In her book Succeed, author Heidi Grant Halvorson discusses how some people respond to promotional messages while others respond to preventative ones.
Sometimes we are in promotion mode. We want to hear about new opportunities. We want more options.
Other times, we are in prevention mode. We want to cut our losses. We want to solve the nagging problems. We want someone to prevent our headaches from occurring again.
How to use this tip today: If you have been struggling to get a response from someone, you may find that switching your style will get a response. For example, simply changing your message from, "Look at what we can do together..." (promotion) to "We don't want to miss out on this..." (prevention) could make all the difference. Some people prefer to pursue opportunities while others want to avoid mistakes.
There is no reason you can't start building a bigger, stronger network today. For even more strategies you can put to use right now, check out this full list of networking tips.
James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda. He is an award-winning writer on business strategy and entrepreneurship and has delivered speeches in the United States, the UK, and Switzerland.