Networking can take many forms, and one of the most important is investing in the relationships you already have. Whether you interact with coworkers in-person, communicate with clients over the internet, or participate in a social media circle, the following best practices will help you transform and maximize your current professional relationships.
1. Take responsibility for your actions
Nothing says “I don’t care about our relationship” like blaming someone else for a mistake you played a role in. Of course, you shouldn’t go out of your way to take the blame for something that isn’t your fault, but if you do make a mistake, own up to it.
Admitting our mistakes is never easy, but blaming someone else usually just makes things worse. By contrast, owning up to your mistakes tells people you can be trusted, and that you won’t throw people under the bus to get yourself out of trouble.
2. Keep a positive attitude
People with a positive outlook on life are just easier to be around, whereas a negative attitude tends to wear people down. Complaining about your workload and gossiping about your coworkers is not likely to make you many friends around the office. A positive, respectful attitude makes you more approachable, and more trustworthy.
3. Be appreciative
Everyone likes to feel appreciated. When someone helps you out or does something nice for you, show your thanks. There’s no need to send a bouquet: a simple thank you will do in most situations.
If you’re expressing your thanks via email or social media, include a short personal note explaining how much their efforts meant to you, and/or why you found their help so valuable. If you show gratitude for their help, they’ll be more likely to help you again in the future.
Being appreciative includes responding positively to constructive feedback. While it’s easy to react negatively when someone tells you what you’re doing wrong, that’s a sure-fire way to turn people off. On the other hand, if your relationship can withstand a harsh bout of constructive criticism, it’s made of solid stuff.
4. Help others out
It’s a lot easier to call in a favor if you actually have one to call in. If you notice one of your coworkers is overwhelmed, offer to take something off their plate. If one of your LinkedIn contacts posts about a challenge they’re having, offer advice. Sometimes, helping out can be as simple as lending an ear or offering another perspective.
5. Put time and effort into your relationships
At the end of the day, the tried-and-true method for building relationships is simply putting time into them. If you work in an office, spend a few minutes every day chatting with your coworkers. If you network on LinkedIn or another social platform, check up on your contacts and comment on their posts.
Maybe there’s a past coworker, client, or mentor you haven’t seen in a while: send a note to let them know you’re thinking of them. And never underestimate the power of wishing someone a happy birthday without having to be reminded first.
Finally, remember that good relationships take time to develop. Be patient with others and respect their boundaries. As you follow these best practices over time, you’ll build up a network of professional contacts who aren’t just career stepping stones, but friends.