Networking. It will either excite you, make your eyes roll, or perhaps make you want to jump off a cliff depending on your personality type. The word itself can seem very transactional. It doesn’t have to be though. The best networks are built upon authenticity, respect, trust and true sense of helping one another.

Here are some tips as you build out your network in an authentic and relationship focused way. 

Start before you need it. 
Just like we teach about preparing for an opportunity before it comes, do the same with networking. It’s usually pretty easy for a person to see if you are hitting them up with an agenda or trying to immediately get something from them. You should be continually meeting new people and making new connections. If you try to build it when you really need it, it’s too late.

Add value to the person, don’t simply take from the relationship.
If there is someone specific that you are trying to network with, think about the value that you can add to them. You don’t want to be just a taker in the relationship because soon there won’t be a relationship. Once you know what value you can add, offer it up to the other person. It could be expertise, a connector to someone else that could help or simply just your time. Add value before making a withdrawal in the relationship.

Realize everyone is important and lose your agenda.
Everyone has value in some way. Everyone! Sometimes we have a tendency to dismiss connections because they aren’t “useful” to us. We don’t see how they can help us meet our personal and professional goals. Realize that everyone has some kind of value, it just may be that you don’t need their expertise or connections yet. Some of my best Passing the Baton connections came from people connecting me to their colleges or from meeting people in other parts of my life.

Also, lose your agenda as you build your network. This will help grow the diversity in your connections.

Nurture your network like a plant. 
You don’t have to check in with everyone every day, but you do need to check in periodically. For those that are close in proximity or the same workspace, it’s fairly easy. For those outside your everyday work environment, (which should be many) scheduling it helps. Throw it on your calendar to remind you to check in. Keeping connected on sites like Linkedin and other social platforms can help as well.

Be authentic, intentional and add value as you grow your network. You never know when you can be a lifeline for someone or they can connect you to your next big goal.

Make a better tomorrow.