“Networking 101” was a great topic for our second uncommon gathering. Too many times we have defined “networking” as being applicable only to business transactions. But, at uncommon, our discussion was based on a freer definition of networking: “cultivating positive relationships.”

We have so many relationships in our lives beyond the business world. Which of those needs to be expanded, deepened, enriched? What about that family member? Or, the friendship that has grown cold and distant? Maybe you are involved in a not-for-profit or ministry endeavor. Would cultivating relationships make a difference there?

“Cultivation” doesn’t mean you have to dig into the dirt, although farming is a great model of relationship building. We begin by deciding what it is we want to grow.

– What is the purpose of your networking? Why do you want to grow a specific relationship?

The second act of farming is to plant seed. I have been a pretty good demonstration of what not to do in starting new relationships. At times I have come off too distant and other times I have probably appeared to be stalker-like. I’m getting better at having a balanced approach, but it is still awkward for me. Unfortunately, the best way to improve a skill is to study and to practice it. And, because the end result of the networking is important, I work to improve.

– Have you made that phone call or proffered that invitation to coffee yet? How about starting gently with “likes” on Facebook?

The third step, and this is the tricky one, is to nourish and tend the relationship. For some situations, this is easy and, for others, not so much. You’re on your own here. My suggestion is that more contact is better than less. And, frequent non-threatening encounters and conversations are worth more than you might imagine. Just keep at it. Even when you think that the other person is not being responsive, there may be walls coming down that you cannot see. Keep cultivating. Keep encouraging.

Then, there is the harvest; fruit appears and then increases.  Everyone benefits.

Networking is deliberate and purposeful. It doesn’t happen by chance. It takes time and energy and a tough skin at times. But, oh, are the benefits worth the effort!!

“The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.” (Proverbs 27:9)


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