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Article Contributed by Jessica Thiefels

To network means to “leverage your business and personal connections to bring a regular supply of new business,” explains Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International (BNI) and VIP contributor of In simple terms, this is the process of building relationships with people who could become valuable assets and referrals as you ascend the corporate ladder, find your passion, or build your businss.

Simply attending networking events, however, is only the start. You need to put in the work to cultivate a network that will provide value for years to come. Keep these qualities in mind as you meet people, offer your services, and search for people who can help. A network built on acountabilty, integrity and generosity is one that will set you up for success in the long run.


Connect with people who are accountable and realiable, who you can count on in a pinch, or for a last-minute request. While you can’t know that upon first meeting them, you can keep an eye out for people who are flakey or unavaible; if they bail on a meeting or cancel last minute more than once, your time is being wasted.

If possible, find someone who’s willing to be your accountabiltiy partner. This person helps you stay on track and holds you accountable for timelines and goals: “Linda Galindo, author of The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success (Jossey-Bass, 2009), says accountability partners are an entrepreneur’s secret weapon for quick growth,” explains Stephanie Vozza, contributor for Entrepreneur.

She continues, “ An accountability partner can help you identify weaknesses in your business, make plans to overcome them and hold you accountable for action.”

Well Connected 

Every effective professional network needs a well-connected person—someone who’s been in the business for longer than most, and as such, provides a lot of value:

“This segment may be the most important part of your network. Connectors are people with a large network of their own who like to share connections. They have access to people, resources, and information, and are generous with their time and their contacts,” says Christine M. Hollinden, founding principal of a professional services marketing firm, Hollinden.


Your contacts should be familiar with the most authentic version of yourself, and you want people in your circle who operate as their most authentic self as well. In our ever-expanding business world, it’s easy to get involved with someone who’s integrity is shaky—and in the end, you’ll suffer from having that toxicity in your immediate circle.

Authenticity is hard to spot, so keep these qualities of authentic people in mind as you network:

  • Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  • Are accepting of themselves and others.
  • Are thoughtful.
  • Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
  • Express their emotions freely and clearly.
  • Are open to learning from mistakes.
  • Understand their motivations.

Your first conversation alone will help you uncover some of these personality traits.


All professional network relationships should be mutually beneficial—meaning you give as much as they do. However, not everyone is in the networking game to help someone else, and if they get what they need from you and then go radio silent on all future communications, you know they’re not someone you want to keep close. A network built on generosity bodes well for you, and everyone involved, so look for people who are already helping others—that’s a good indication they’ll be generous when asked for help from you as well.

Different (Than You)

Diversity is one of the most critical aspects of an effective professional network, and the best way to facilitate this is to use a targeted approach. Know the kind of people you want to surround yourself with, and cultivate a network with that in mind:

“Networking will be most profitable for you when you master this targeted approach. Find events, networking and otherwise, where you can connect with people that cross geographical, organizational and hierarchal lines, and you’ll be on your way to success,” says Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur recognized by Inc. 500.

Your needs will evolve, so before every networking event, consider what you need help with, advice on, or direction for. Then keep your eyes open for someone who fits that bill and always offer to help them first—which is the best way to start a mutually beneficial relationship on the right foot.

There’s more to networking than handshakes and small talk at a charity gala or client luncheon. Forging sustainable connections in the business world requires purpose and intentionality. But when you look for these qualities and commit to the process, those long-term benefits will make your efforts worthwhile.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer, content marketing consultant and business owner. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Manta, StartupNation, Salesforce and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.



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