Here’s an all too common scenario: Joe gets laid off from his job of 10 years, and now finds himself looking for work. He follows the standard advice from employment gurus, and begins his search by trying to tap into his personal network. The only problem is that, over the last ten years, Joe had never actually taken the time to build his network. So, the next thing you know, he’s sending emails and making phone calls to people he’s only ever met once or twice in his life, asking them for help. In doing so, he comes across as self- serving and disingenuous. The strategy rarely works.

The importance of keeping a strong, active personal and professional network can’t be overstated. The secret to building a network, as any networking expert will tell you, is to do things for other people, not ask them to do things for you. Here’s one very simple and very powerful piece of networking advice: be a connector. If you know of a good software developer, and know of somebody who’s looking to have software developed, pass the name along. If you know someone that is selling something and someone who is looking to buy, hook them up. It doesn’t matter how important you think these people might be to your future – if you genuinely think the match is right, connect them.

Every time you make a connection, you’re helping two people at a time, and the message you send is that you’re thinking about them, and that they are important to you. Make this a regular practice, and you’ll find that when the time comes that you need your network; it will be there for you.

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