5 Tips to Refresh, Feed and Grow Your Network

By on August 1, 2011

woman on phone with smile lookingu upBy Donna Kastner –

By age 50+, it’s likely you’ve made hundreds, if not thousands of network connections. Networking connections happen everywhere – at work, at school, at church, at neighborhood barbecues, at cocktail parties. Sometimes the best new connections come when you least expect them.

Networks are incredibly valuable, especially if you’re charting an exciting new chapter in your life. Think of your network as a garden. If you’ve been feeding and weeding regularly, no doubt, there’s a wealth of opportunities just waiting to be harvested. And if you’ve been a bit neglectful, don’t worry.

Here are five easy steps to refresh, restore and renew for a bumper crop of conversations and opportunities in the future:

1. Take Stock: With LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google +, many of you are already capturing contacts, and even sorting these by categories. If you’re not doing this yet, now is the perfect time to take stock of your contact universe. Go find some quiet time and dial back through some of your most rewarding life experiences. Who did you meet? What role did these people play? Start making your list and include details, wherever you can.

2. Segment: Now that you’ve captured your network, it’s time to go back and rank each relationship. Using the rule of three’s, I would suggest starting with three tiers: A, B, and C. A-level contacts are people where connections are strongest and/or people who hold great influence in your life. The B level might be folks you see every now and then and/or they hold moderate influence. As for the C tier, this is where you park everybody else. Think of it as one big miscellaneous bucket where you can fish for future A’s and B’s.

3. Weed Out: Now, it’s time to zero in on those negative types and do some pruning. These are people who pull your time and attention away from meaningful pursuits; who drag down your energy, drive and enthusiasm. Your “weed out” nominees might include naysayers, know-it-alls, narcissists and my favorite, the wheel spinners who suck the life out of you, but never give much in return. Weeding out the WRONG contacts will free up time to fulfill step #4.

4. Feed and Grow: Starting with your A-listers, how often are you feeding these contacts? They help you, but are you equally invested in helping them? Do you send over articles of interest? Do you refer new business opportunities to these folks? Do you check in to chat by phone or meet for coffee? Be someone who is genuinely interested in learning about others and less focused on promoting yourself. Go through your list and think about WHO you need to feed and HOW best to make it happen.

5. Fine-tune Your Plan and Work It: Start setting goals as to how much time you can realistically devote to your network. Block out time on your calendar each week to reach out to A- and B-list contacts. Stay focused and be persistent. Don’t let this fall to your “good intentions” list. Do this well and trust me, it won’t be long before you’re surrounded by all kinds of wonderful opportunities.

Professionally, Donna Kastner is an author, editor, sales trainer, blogger and people connector. Personally, Donna is a mom, wife and friend. Donna leads Enlighten 123, a sales and management performance development practice. Ever the innovator, through Retirepreneur, she’s also helping boomers to explore if starting a business might be their best segue to retirement. You can reach Donna through her websites: http://www.enlighten123.com/ and http://www.retirepreneur.com/.

About Donna Kastner

Professionally, Donna Kastner is an author, editor, sales trainer, blogger and people connector. Personally, Donna is a mom, wife and friend. Donna leads Enlighten 123, a sales and management performance development practice. Ever the innovator, through Retirepreneur, she's also helping boomers to explore if starting a business might be their best segue to retirement. You can reach Donna through her websites: www.enlighten123.com and www.retirepreneur.com

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5 Tips to Refresh, Feed and Grow Your Network