When you look into your rolodex – how many of the business cards you have collected over the years represent a person you could call today to exchange ideas, have a second opinion on something or to ask for a favour? Actually, how many of these contacts you once created have developed into real relationships?

Networking should be fun. And yes, everybody can learn how to enjoy it.
–Dr. Magda Bleckmann

Look through your rolodex again, and just imagine the many opportunities, ideas and potentialities that could be hidden in it – had those exchanges of business cards developed into real relationships. And exactly this is what networking is about: systematically and consciously expanding and maintaining contacts.

If you want to develop your contacts from a collection of paper into a vivid network, follow the 7 simple rules I developed from my long experience: networking can be fun if you do it right – and at the same time it will become the most rewarding investment of your valuable time if you continue doing it regularly. Because over time you will find colleagues, friends and partners who share common interests with you and might one day even become mentors, sparring partners, or even customers.

1. First give – then take

Only if I am willing to do something for another person I will get something back. Not always from those people who I did a favor to (who I was beneficial for), there are others. Universe grants balance. Always do think who you can be beneficial and helpful to.

2. Show interest in your conversational partner

Be attentive and esteeming /appreciating towards your conversational partner. Keep eye contact and ask interesting questions. Focus your thoughts on your partner and the conversation. Thus you will definitely be kept in good memory.

3. Be active

Become aktiv, do not wait for the others’ actions. Dare to accept several rejections, you will see it’ll pay off. Show courage to do something even if you do not know what the result is.

4. Have time and patience

There must have been 7 contacts on average, before you can make business. Even if you do not see immediate results, staying tuned will pay off. If a networking partner knows you and your proficiency, he can recommend you anyway.

5. Establish relationships

Think well when getting a business card, if you really want to stay in contact with the person. If yes, get in touch possibly the following week for an initial meeting and offer benefits (he mediation of contacts, interesting information, …) – Be reliable. Arrange a follow-up appointment even if there are not immediate synergies. So the contact keeps active and does not vanish.

6. Maintain contacts

Define your contacts in categories, consider for each category how often and for what purpose you want to see them. Plan your management of relationships systematically and deliberately, additionally check regularly (at least quarterly) if you are on target.

7. Have fun

Be only active in those social networks, where you have fun – with the topics and the people. The only way to get other people highly interested in our idea and to win them is by being enthusiastic ourselves.

Now it’s up to you to make it happen: I’d advise to invest 30 minutes every day, taking time for your contacts and developing them further into stable relationships. If you set priorities and follow these 7 rules, you should see the first results already in a few months: let me know how it worked for you!