Keith Hafner's Karate tonight. We were having our monthly meeting of the student assistant teachers. Grandmaster Hafner often touches on a variety of life lessons in these meetings. Tonight we were talking about money and how it can be a powerful force for either good or ill. One of the points he brought up was that if you are a good steward with your money, then you will get more. The opposite is also true.
This has application for almost every area in life. Networking is no exception. I've talked to a lot of people about networking and many of them would like to grow their network. My question would be, "How are you treating the one you have?"
You see, if you aren't making the effort to maintain and deepen the relationships in your network, they will begin to fade and evaporate. The only benefit you will get from trying to grow a network like this is that the new contacts will replace the old ones. That means that it will never actually increase in size and for the most part it won't have any relationships that go to the "trust level".
Fortunately, it is fairly simple to maintain these relationships. On average, it only takes an email or a phone call every couple of months and a face-to-face meeting once or twice a year. Set up a tickler file so you don't have to worry about forgetting anyone. Then set up a regular practice of staying in contact and you should be golden for a majority of your network. Of course, if you find opportunities for them or information of interest that you can pass along, that can only serve to strengthen your ties.
Remember that, despite the fact that it's made up of friends and acquaintances, your network is like any other resource or tool in your life. It must be maintained in order to remain useful. If you can put in the work now, you won't have to worry about it failing you when you do need it somewhere down the line.
Photo credit: David Davies