It's Not "THE" Network, It's "YOUR" Network!!

Approach building your network with the attitude of helping others.  Pass on job leads, share best practices, or mutual mentoring for success.  By helping others, they will try to help you.  Be a connector Have a functional, usable personal system of keeping track of the names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social network addresses, and other interesting pieces of information.  The list will grow throughout your careers and thus the system you select should be expandable with ease.  The central repository should be on a permanent hard drive protected from loss.  For me, my Blackberry is book of record backed-up by Outlook!

Dive into the world of electronic connectivity and share your information.  The most popular site for professionals is www.LinkedIn.com.  In addition, take advantage of Facebook (www.facebook.com) for personal networking.  Also, Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a great way to keep in touch with friends and colleagues in "real-time."  I glean much of the day's news, industry trends and so much more from Twitter.

When you hear of a colleague who has lost their job or appears to be struggling, call them.  They will appreciate hearing from you.  You will not only build a lasting friendship but they will look to help you if you ever need assistance.

Develop a routine for staying connected to your network.  I personally set aside time each week for "staying in touch" with my network.  I utilize email, phone calls, and Facebook messages to name a few methods.  The key is to develop a routine that allows you to rotate through your contacts and also to invest time where worth investing.  Not every contact is worth keeping on the list.

Engage in activities that drive network growth.  Participation in community and philanthropic endeavors is a great way to meet new people, develop new relationships and expand your reach.  In addition, there are typically excellent leadership development opportunities that arise from engaging in community organizations.

Ask for advice from a mentor, coach, or close colleague.  Coaches and mentors have typically "been there before" and can offer great advice on relationship-building.  One word of caution, keep in mind that your life is your life and while coaches and mentors provide advice and opinions, it is your responsibility to own the decision and consequences.

Always return phone calls.  I return every recruiter call and respond to all emails that arrive via references / referrals or a mutual friend.  You never know what might develop out of a new relationship.

Always maintain an up-to-date resume.  Circumstances change quickly and you may need the resume with very short notice.

Recognize that not everyone is a "people" person.  I am naturally a people person - outgoing, interested in engaging in conversation, etc.  It is important to, at times, dial-it-down as not every personality type operates this way.  Keep in mind that the best relationships are often built when one considers the ideas, opinions, behaviors and preferences of others.