This article completes our recent series on networking. Catch up on any segments you’ve missed by reading about what fits under the umbrella term “networking,” the role of your mindset and goals, opportunities outside of traditional networking events, and considering formal women’s networks.
Once you’ve determined that networking is a worthwhile endeavor - and that there are authentic ways to make it work for every personality - it’s time to consider how you’ll manage your network.
“As your career expands, naturally so does your network. Taking time and intention to do that with purpose is the difference between meeting mass amounts of people and never seeing or connecting with them again, and making deep connections that become beneficial for both parties for years - in a way that can significantly change the trajectory of your life and theirs," share Julia Pimsleur, author of Million Dollar Women and founder of the organization that shares the name. “The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships, not the list of your accomplishments.”
Julia recommends starting with small actions that can make big impacts. “Sometimes taking a minute to send a text that says ‘Thinking of you and sending you love. Let me know if I can help with anything’ is exactly what someone in your circle needs to hear. If you are reading this, take a minute and send that text to one of your friends. Send one every day and you’ll be amazed what will happen.” She emphasizes that the relationships you cultivate regularly will be the difference-makers for you in difficult seasons. “Building my own network has allowed me to create and grow the life and career I have today. What may have started out as a meeting in the hall at a conference, or an email introduction from a mutual friend, has grown into lifelong friends, partners that I collaborate and do business with, and investors. My network is the support system that gets me through the dark times and I always make it a priority to be there for them as well.”
That commitment has supported her through some of her own seasons of transition and challenge. “I remember when I got divorced 7 years ago I wanted to be sure my next professional chapter allowed me plenty of time with my children who I only had half the time as I was sharing custody. I was so glad that when I chose to start a women’s organization, pursuing my passion for closing the economic gender gap, that I had a strong network of friends and professional contacts to tap into for advice, partnerships and board and advisory council members. If I had not been proactive about making and cultivating those relationships, making that transition would have been much harder!”
Styles of Follow-Up and Relationship Tracking
There are many options for maintaining your network, ranging from a good old fashioned address book to Excel sheets and even AI-driven relationship management softwares and apps.
Jean Poh, CEO of luxury jewelry house CADAR, chimes in with her input on relationship management systems, which is rooted in personal authenticity. “I'm a big believer in authentic connections and I don't want my efforts to connect to feel automated. However, I also believe in tools that can bring efficiency, consistency, and ease to our lives. CRM at the end of the day is a tool to amplify human connections; it doesn't replace it. Here's where I stand: I'm definitely against using ChatGPT to write my messages - but a personal CRM? I'm willing to give it a go.”
Julia advocates for the spreadsheet approach. “Tracking who the people you meet at networking events and in social settings are and how you can reconnect with them is a great way to get more intentional about building your network. You don't have to use a fancy or expensive CRM. You can start with a Google Spreadsheet or excel file. The important thing is to track name, company, where you met, notes about what was said, and to have a column called ‘next steps’ where you can keep track of what you want to do next in order to deepen your relationship with this person, or when would be a good time to reach back out to them.” She also recommends asking your team for help as needed, but emphasizes the importance of fully downloading the original interaction to those team members.
Relationships Rule the Day
Julia reflects on a time when the value of being intentional with relationship management was impressed upon her. “When I was building my advisory council for my first company, Little Pim, and we were in our first few years of business, not making the big bucks, I didn't know any successful entrepreneurs. I had switched careers from fundraising to launching a multimedia language teaching company and didn't have deep connections in the business world. By tapping into my personal network from my prior careers and social.circles I was able to build an 8-person advisory council that had people on it with big business wins under their belts. The key was to connect with them as people and build off our relationship, not my business traction which at the time was next to none! For instance, one friend from college had built and sold his company to Google for $3B I knew he probably had many people asking him to join their boards or advisory councils but he agreed to join mine in part because of our friendship and in part because we were teaching young children a second language and he was fluent in Mandarin, a fact not many people knew about him. Our language teaching company for kids was interesting to him as a Chinese speaker and someone who wanted to raise bilingual kids. So don't be afraid to look into your personal network and see who might be able to help you reach your professional goals.”
Julia concludes, “Most people really like to be asked for help! And if they say no they can't help right now then you can ask them, ‘Who do you think i should be talking to?’ or ‘Who would you be trying to talk to if you were me?’ and that can open so many new doors.”
Lauren Lyddon has helped people and organizations to tell their stories for more than a decade. Having tested her love of the creative through the pursuit of an MBA and undergraduate business degrees, she is a writer, editor, and lover of fiction in all its forms (especially theatre, well-written television, and novels). A West coast resident often operating on an East coast schedule, Lauren uses her business background and love of story to serve clients in writing, editing, PR, and more. You can visit her online at L2crtv.com.