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Grow Your Network: Strategies To Expand Your Contact List

Networking is often considered a prerequisite for achieving success in one’s professional or personal life. We live in an environment where it is not what you know, but rather who you know that matters; and knowing the right people could catapult even an ordinary person to great heights. In order to know the right people, however, it is important to expand your contact list beyond just family and friends. The following strategies will help you grow your network.

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Snowball your network
Have you ever been called by an insurance agent or a savvy sales professional? Notice how at the end of the conversation you are asked for referrals. You could apply the same strategy to grow your network list. At every meeting, try asking for names of others you could speak with. When you speak to these individuals, again ask for more referrals. Within a few months your network would have snowballed to hundreds or even thousands of contacts. How you leverage this network is up to you.

You never know
Many decades ago there was a visible demarcation between different sections of the society. In those days, if you wanted to network with someone in the upper echelon, you would have to actually know someone up there. A noticeable effect of rapid globalization and widespread technological advancement, however, is the thinning of socio-economic boundaries. One’s circle of contacts is now not limited to any particular stratum; almost anyone could know anyone.

I would like to consider myself a proponent of the “you never know” rule. In other words, you never know who knows whom. Don’t assume the bartender doesn’t know someone of interest to you or the hairdresser (whom you speak with anyways) is not a potential networking contact. I have witnessed numerous success stories where unexpected acquaintances, ranging from subway riders and bartenders to massage therapists have served as tremendously helpful resources for career advancement.

What could be easier than making connections through the written word. Who says networking is only about conversations. I consider every individual who reads my articles as a potential networking contact. If you are good at something, write about it. From trade magazines and scholarly journals to blogs, there are plenty of opportunities to write.

You could also write to initiate a conversation. Example, if you read an interesting article, don’t hesitate to write an appreciation letter (or e-mail) to the author. If you read about someone’s victory or loss, drop in a line even if you don’t know the person. That first initiative could lead to a series of opportunities.

Use technology
Until a few years ago I was a non-believer when it came to networking through technology. Fast forward a few years, my online network now comprises of thousands of contacts. Professional online groups (on Yahoo, MSN, Google …), e-lists, forums, online networking services (such as linkedin.com), and the likes have introduced a new dimension to the world of networking. Despite the widespread optimism, I view technology as a supplement -- as opposed to a replacement -- to my traditional networking efforts. (Caveat: always be careful online.)

Go and network
From trade shows to association or chamber of commerce meetings to conferences, be omnipresent. If you are not yet a member of a professional group or association, consider joining one.

Comb through publications
Regularly read newspapers, industry publications, and professional literature. These will acquaint you with key players within your profession. Don’t stop at knowing their names; make efforts to get in touch with them, whether through letters or in-person meetings.

Those (authors, writers, researchers, experts, etc.) contributing to these publications are generally top professionals with a huge clout in their area of expertise. Knowing them could mean tapping into a pool of thousands of professionals.

Be genuinely interested in others
Social magnets are generally people who are genuinely interested in the welfare of others. From sharing [non-confidential] articles to volunteering on a project, a lot could be done to contribute to your contacts’ welfare. Jay, a pharmaceutical sales representative, for example, has grown his network to over 5,000 contacts using a very simple strategy: writing letters. He is constantly on the lookout for news about key people. He congratulates them for victories, consoles them during the loss of a loved one, or simply wishes them on special occasions. The results have been very encouraging.

Network with well-networked people
Just knowing one well-networked individual could mean tapping into a potential network of hundreds. What a jumpstart.

Growing your network is like watering a plant. Do it regularly and you will watch your network grow. It does take some effort but the payoff is well worth the invested time.

Related Articles:
Networking Tips For The Very Shy


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