This article by Milton Kiang is a handy list of do's and don't's of networking. Read them, follow them and you will see an improvement in your professional life.
The rules are simple and should be easy to follow. The one on always keeping business cards on you is a great one. To maintain personal connections with your network, follow up with your connections individually to say "hi" but also to share something important to them either their industry or something you know they like. Joining a group and/or attending monthly events are also great ways to build your network. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is active and up to date, as well. This can help you connect with people and to just find out about events and groups in your area and/or in your industry that you can join to build more personal contacts in addition to online ones. I will say again that I think people under-utilize their LinkedIn profiles. Check out my product page for information on the LinkedIn improvement I can do to help you position your profile to get you the most out of LinkedIn.
This leads naturally to the don't's of networking - do not rely on social networks alone. You do need to connect in person with your network. Please do not only connect with people when you want or need something. We all have horror stories of getting a call from a connection and thinking it is all so nice and then getting hit with the pitch or the request. I equate it with the equivalent of getting called by your old high school friend and you think it is just a catch up call and then getting asked to host a makeup selling party or something at your house for them to see their stuff to your friends (not that this has happened to me or anything...). You get the idea.
Just make that call(s) periodically to keep cultivating your relationships, try to share and promote other people at all times and then when the time comes that you do need to rely on your network, they will be there for you but please do not ask us to host a make up selling party...
What do you think about the advice in this article? How do you network? Does it work well for you? Do you help others network? Happy Hunting!
CareerBuilder The Dos and Don'ts of Networking
Lisa Vento Nielsen