Guest post by Debra Benton, co-author with Kylie Wright-Ford of The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead in the New World of Work.

When it comes to big pictures, networking is the way you link your vision for your business and career to those of the rest of the world. If you are on track in your business and professional life, you network every day, forging and enhancing connections that will reap future rewards.

Networking is a Numbers Game

As any executive coach will tell you, once you’ve reached the required level of technical expertise in your field, career advancement depends on the relationships you establish. Make sure you’re doing this important work well by networking effectively. Here’s how:

  1. Networking is about contact. It’s eye contact, face-to-face contact, phone contact, e-mail contact. It’s contact with people you can help and who can help you. Make these contacts with grace: have good posture, relax, and smile.
  2. Be the one to initiate. Keep your eyes and ears open to prospects. Learn to recognize a potential business friend. That person may be at a professional seminar, at a community event, in the airplane seat next to you, at the health club, a friend of a friend, a friend of a vendor, even someone you read about in newspapers or magazines. Be human and humorous in your contact.
  3. Be bold. Put your fears aside or at least get them out of the way, and approach the scariest person first. The rest will be a lot easier.
  4. Anticipate discomfort. What is new is frequently uncomfortable. Trust me, though, eventually, you will be more at ease, especially when it starts paying off. Ease the pain by keeping the contact simple and specific.
  5. Expect acceptance. Believe that you are adequate in this potential relationship. If you don’t receive acceptance, don’t feel rejected. Remember that the person you’re approaching probably also has a list of prospective business friends he or she hopes to develop. You may not be on that list at this time. Be patient.
  6. Pass it on. When you seek opportunities to help someone else by referring them, you become known as a center of influence. People will come to you.
  7. Always respond. Answer every telephone call, e-mail message, and letter. They might be someone’s attempt at networking with you and you never know where it might lead.

How Do You Know When Networking Works?

People invite you into business meetings or conversations when they don’t have to. They seek you out because they’ve heard of you and your capabilities. Your name gets passed upwards and outwards. You receive calls from people you’ve never heard of inside and outside the company.

Networking may not seem all that important in the crush of the daily to-do list, until you need a network to call on. Then, it may well be too late. The day-to-day work of networking is a solid way to stay connected with your big picture plans even as you take smaller steps toward realizing them. A network of contacts helps you extend and grow your business and career and allows you to help others in the same endeavor. A solid network also provides a hedge against the future. In times of challenge, these are the people you’ll call. A network is a safety net. Work to keep yours tight and strong by tending to it every day.

This post was originally written with Barry Lenson.

Debra Benton is ranked as one of the top executive coaches in the world, is president of Benton Management Resources, Inc., and author of 11 books including her latest from McGraw-Hill titled, The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead in the New World of Work (June, 2017).