Everyone knows you are supposed to network, network, network to find out about job openings and other opportunities in the marketplace. "So go and network," the pundits say.

Great. You've Got Nothing. Where Do You Start?

The simplest step to start adding people to your business network is this: get personal contact information for people you would like to stay in contact with and then consistently communicate with them. "Personal" contact information means the contact information that doesn't go away the minute someone is laid off -- no corporate resources, nope. You want direct access to people and not through some corporate gateway that can be gone in a layoff minute. People sign up for my mailing list on my site and every time I send out an update, I get a material percentage back that says either they are out of the office or they are no longer working with the company. See how that works? If you live by corporate resources to network, you die by corporate resources taken away from you when you leave the company. Don't rely on corporate contact information. And "consistently communicate" with these people means you regularly talk with them or exchange e-mails with them on their personal accounts. That doesn't mean talking with them daily; it means consistently -- once every two weeks or once a month. Longer than once a month makes it very easy to slide out of consistent communication and your person is much less likely to think of you to help solve problems -- or apply for a job. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6HTqn2TdkU&w=560&h=315]

Here's Where Most People Screw Up

Now, people leave your company all the time, right? They voluntarily to take another job or they get laid off. What happens to them? They walk right out the door and head off to their new job in a new company or to start their new job search -- where they end up at a new job, in a new company. Sadly, those people walk right out the door and you never get the personal contact information from them so you can keep in touch. If 25 people leave the company that you know through finding other jobs or through a layoff, that's 25 opportunities to find out what is happening in other places in your local job market you just missed out on.

Your Best Business Networking Contact: A Person You Have Worked with Before

Yes, professional organizations are great. Yes, your other social networks -- school, church, clubs, hobbies -- are great people to know. But you haven't shown those people how you accomplish your tasks or how you work on a team. Only people you have worked with know how you go about your business of getting things done. And most of the time, we let the people who know our work the best walk right out the door to another job and never stay in contact with them.

What You Can Do Right Now

Which 10 people in your company or in another company would you love to stay in touch with no matter where they were? Go exchange your personal contact information and stay in touch. Great business networks started with much less.