Business networking is often characterized as the most important way to keep and find great jobs that match your skills. To a large degree, that's true. But when we characterize networking as the most important piece to a job search, many of you -- if not most -- look at that statement and run from it. No networking on my watch. No business-card sharing, professional group, two-minute elevator speeches for you. No way. No how. Just: NO. You'd be right. What the pundits don't talk about is the secret to networking: build relationships so that you never worry about networking. Pundits get that you need to be aware of many people. They miss that you need to build relationships with those people to give you the support you and they need to continue to succeed in your life.
  • 5,000 friends on Facebook and 10,000 connections on LinkedIn are not networking. Social media helps to expand the number of people you are aware of in your desired space. But awareness is not the same as willing to help you or you willing to help them. On social media, you'll pay attention to something someone says if you are somehow connected with them. But you won't necessarily act on it. But if you've interacted with and solved a problem together, you are much more likely to help that person because there is a relationship.
  • Build relationships, not connections. Relationship means interactions. It means going to have lunch together. It means consistently talking with one another. It means asking for or giving advice to one another when asked. It means when you make a promise, you deliver on that promise. It means building up the bank account of good deeds so that when the time comes for either one of you to use that bank account for help, there is plenty to share. It's not re-tweeting a 140-character post.
  • Relationships take time and, perhaps, some management. I use a tool for Twitter that enables me to put something out there on Twitter every four hours. It's automated and works well. You know what's happened since I started using it? I spend little time on Twitter because it's handled. I'm marketing my site and it's automated and it is driving traffic to my site. It is not building relationships.
  • Better? Consistently email or call the people you want to have relationships with. Tell them about what you are doing with your life and ask if you can help them in their life. Use some tools to remind you to communicate with the people you want to have a relationship with. It could be as simple as an email distribution list or something more CRM'y like JibberJobber that allows us to define how often we communicate with someone and reminds you when it is time. A tool that reminds us to communicate with someone is very different from a tool that substitutes communicating with someone. A distinction many of us miss.
  • Networking is simple.
Pundits can go a little nuts describing what can get done for networking: building a personal brand, elevator speeches, two-minute summaries of your needs, speed-networking, LinkedIn strategies, and contributing to groups plus a hundred other tactics for working with someone to increase your business network. Meh. Build relationships with people you want to interact with and support. All else follows from that. Simple.