Prior to deciding on my next career adventure, I experienced what many have, and I never imagined myself experiencing. That was, the five minute ‘we are making some organization changes’ discussion, from my manager.

Even as he said that, I was imagining a different job, a new role, maybe a downsizing of my responsibility within the company. I never imagined after years of dedication, loyalty, and, if you allow me to boast, significant contribution, that I along with others, was being downsized right out of our jobs. Unbelievable!

As fast as that five minute discussion happened, the pursuit of reaching out to my contacts, acquaintances, and other sources, began; typical of people finding themselves suddenly without a job, without a future paycheck. But, wait! I had been gainfully employed for years, but had only my small sphere of co-workers, peers, managers, clients and industry peers as my documented contacts. It amounted to about seventy five or so. That was not going to be enough ‘job finders’ and future managers, to secure what I thought I wanted at that moment, a job.

Oh my gosh, where was my Rolodex! Where was my contact management system that held my vast network of over twenty five plus years of contacts? Why was my Outlook Address Book near empty?

Throughout the years, I have met, built relationships, and had partnerships with hundreds of people; those in my business, clients, industry, associations, recruiters, college, hobbies, athletics, and even my close circle of friends, and family. Each of them had a network of personal and business contacts. But I only had seventy five, and that was not going to find me a job, start a business, or find a business to buy.

Then it happened again, the reality that I had lost over twenty five years of valuable contacts, a network that I quickly realized could help me find bosses, clients, find prospects, find referrals, and even find old friends and college mates. The loss appeared endless. So, I set off to feverishly build my network, going through my online phone book, my old paper phone books, scanning my Emails, and compiling an Excel spreadsheet of colleagues, recruiters, acquaintances, friends, and family.

From that point, I ensured that with every new contact I made, I would determine what, how and where a new contact could compliment my network, not only currently but in the future, and I would note them and enter them into my new online excel spreadsheet (I had not yet used a online contact management system). The reality became very clear; you cannot wait to create, grow and maintain your network. You need to do it today, tomorrow and always.

It turned out, through this new networking development process, I was able to gather enough information, guidance, thought leadership, contacts, leads, referrals, prospects, and eventually a decision of what my next career adventure was going to be..I bought a business excellence consulting and coaching business.

So, some simple Network Development practices to follow:
* Network, Network, Network –
* Join local and national associations, networking groups, (i.e. Refocus on Referrals, Atlanta Business Alliance, etc.), and referral groups. Meet, relate, and gain a contact
* Create a contact log – simply,
* Use an on line contact management systems (CMS), an Outlook Address Book , Linked In, even an Excel spreadsheet
* Use the millions of contacts in Linked In to create, grow, and maintain your network
* Capture all critical information about each contact. Sounds simple, but key information that can serve you well, is often overlooked; Full Name, Company Name, Business Address, Office Phone, Fax, Cell, Email Address (business and personal), Web Address, IM Address.
* Do not forget the Source of meeting that contact. Do not take this for granted, it may be important later. And finally the Date you met the contact
* Make notes of any specific personal or business information you learn about that contact; spouse, kids, birthday, hobbies, sports teams, pets, etc.
* Business Cards –
* Either buy a business card scanner that will allow you to automatically upload all of the business card information into your CMS system, or Contact spreadsheet, or put a process in place to get all of the business card information into your contact system sooner than later.
* Maintain Contacts –
* As you grow your network, have a process to update and maintain your contacts as it changes.
* Maintaining your contacts also means ‘working’ your contacts regularly, help them, and they will help you.

So, in summary, it is critical that you MUST, not need or want to CREATE, GROW and MAINTAIN your network. You must care for it, pay attention to it, and take care of it, not only Today, but Tomorrow, and Always.

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Author's Bio: 

As President of The Boas Group, based in Atlanta, Georgia, Bernadette Boas is “a ball of fire” who compels businesses to excel in achieving their companies’ and their personal superior financial goals.

Energy, passion and a wealth of corporate and entrepreneurial experience characterize her current business consulting, coaching and public speaking practice, and her future plans to extend her business into a global media communications firm that includes radio, television, books, CD’s and other educational medium.

Powered by Focal Point International, the business coaching and development organization of world-renowned speaker, author and coach, Brian Tracy, FocalPoint Coaching of The Boas Group deploys its knowledge, expertise, tools and leadership to help clients increase productivity, outperform the competition and reach new heights of success.

Two corporate decades of driving change and delivering significant revenue increases to Fortune 1000 retailers such as Wal-Mart , Federated Department Stores, Office Depot, Sears, and others, as well overseeing a Global Professional Services Organization Development team, have culminated in a consulting, coaching and public speaking practice that provides its services to new start-ups and established small and midsize businesses.

Bernadette Boas is a member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Business Alliance, Atlanta Women in Business, the Buckhead Business Association, Women Leadership Exchange, and the National Association of Professional Women. She is active with the Junior Achievement’s Fellowship Program, Toastmasters International, and speaks about “Creation of the Entrepreneur™,” to groups and companies of all sizes, at colleges and universities, United Way and Chamber of Commerce events, and business and association meetings.