“The world’s a small place. Everywhere you go, your relationships should come with you. When you leave a job, take the relationships with you.”  – Carole Sawdye, Chief Financial Officer, PwC

Networking. There I said it, and I know most of you sighed. The thought of walking around a networking event and handing out your business card brings dread to the savviest of professional women. But, Iʼm not talking about that kind of networking. Iʼm talking about the type of networking that is one of the key aspects of a fulfilling career – building and maintaining relationships.

Opportunities donʼt come through hard work, online job boards or a fabulous resume or bio alone.

Opportunities come through other people.

If you choose not to build your relationships, you are actively limiting the number of key people who can open doors you would have never even thought to knock on.

How do I know this? 

Most of my clients have found their next great opportunities through someone they already knew.

I trust that after you started a family, and your job responsibilities bloomed, you struggled to keep in touch with long-time girlfriends, let alone getting out to networking events.

But, thatʼs not always necessary. Part of building a satisfying career is to nurture the everyday relationships that develop throughout your life and career. Youʼll find that this will enhance your professional life, as well as your personal one.

Long time friends are just as important as well-positioned colleagues. Your relationships donʼt always need to be tactical, but they do need to be nurtured. 

Trust me, and the experience of my clients; you never know from where your next great opportunity will come.

Think about the people you already know and like. Take time each week, to connect – or reconnect, if itʼs been a while, with at least two of those people and do what comes naturally to most women – build and maintain relationships.

How do you develop and build relationships if you haven’t connected with someone in a while?

1. Be Curious
The best way to start is to show interest and curiosity in them and what is currently happening in their life.  Nothing makes people feel better than to be remembered.

2. Be Honest
Then be honest and let them know you have been busy.  Yes you could have done more to keep in touch and didn’t but you would really like to reconnect now.

3. Be Yourself
Be the same person they remember and wanted to connect with in the first place.  Don’t worry about what they are going to think.  If you reach out and just be yourself, it will be enough.

4. Be Helpful
Once you know what’s new with them offer your assistance and connections to help them.  Don’t do it to get something in exchange, do it because you can.  Trust that it will come back to you one way or another.

5. Be Prepared
Know your story. Be ready to share whatʼs new with you and why have you been so busy. While your story needs to honest and sincere, it also helps to know what you want to say in advance, so that itʼs interesting and compelling.

Not sure what to share? Use my free Story Builder Tool Kit to build a narrative of what has brought you to where you are now and where you want to go.

6. Be Sociable ~ In person, as well as online
Instead of staying at your desk and gobbling lunch over your keyboard, go out and eat lunch with people you want to get to know better. If you want to connect with someone new, have a mutual friend or acquaintance invite you both to lunch.

If you donʼt have lunch plans, then use your lunch break to connect with an old friend or colleague over the phone, by email or on a social network. Once you reestablish the relationship, ask to meet them for lunch. If they live far away, suggest scheduling a time to talk on a regular basis, or suggest a Skype session.

Use Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks to connect with former friends and colleagues. If you feel uncomfortable calling them directly, connect on a social network by sending them a message via their social media account. Sometimes, itʼs the easiest way to revive an old relationship.

I know for a fact that this can work, as a former colleague from years ago reached out to me on LinkedIn. I responded, and we scheduled lunch. To my surprise, she became a client that also ended up referring new clients to me.

There are many other aspects to building a great career network, but this is the easiest and most fundamental way to get comfortable expanding your connections.

This is important because you won’t know how or when these relationships will come to your benefit but they will.

A version of this post appeared originally on www.foodonourtable.com.

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About Jennifer: Jennifer McClanahan-Flint offers a variety of solutions for high-achieving, professional women faced with the new territory of transitioning into leadership positions in their careers, while simultaneously transitioning into motherhood.  Jennifer understands the struggles that working moms face every day because she is a working mom herself. Work with Jennifer: Learn more about Jennifer and how to work with her.

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