Knowing the right people can skyrocket your career. Your network is your net worth, right?
Yet the word networking itself makes people nervous. Add to that the expectation to somehow provide value in a way that creates a relationship based on like and trust.
If you're like most people, you're probably not sure what "adding value" means or how it plays out in the real world. You may want to build long-term connections, but are having trouble making it happen. Or you may feel like you have nothing to give.
Whether it's for contacts you've made at events, through job interviews or even with potential mentors in your field, here are specific examples of how you can provide value to others -- so you can stop stressing and start connecting.
1. Bring a friend
Going to a seminar, conference, or meet-up event? Extend the invitation to someone you're looking to connect with further to tag along with you. Even if they can't make it, they'll remember the gesture.
2. Teach what you know
Sometimes you'll come across someone you know could benefit from your experience. For instance, If you're a master at Excel, you might offer to do an internal lunch-and-learn, which gives you cross-departmental exposure you can draw on when you're looking for a promotion. If you're an entrepreneur or freelancer, hold a free webinar or give a talk to your at a local co-working space. You'll also find there are always less experienced colleagues looking for mentorship.
3. Give compliments freely
Offer to write a letter of recommendation, give a testimonial, Yelp review, or recommend them on LinkedIn.
4. Make key introductions
Networking is, of course, all about connections. Have you come across two people you know could help each other? Or one contact who could solve another person's problem?
5. Express gratitude for the ways people add value to your life
Email your mentor to share how you took action on his advice. Text a thank you note to someone who referred business to you. If you're feeling creative, another idea is to send handwritten cards to colleagues on hotel stationary when you travel -- just to say hello from wherever you are in the world.
Learn to say thank you, specifically, and from a grateful heart.
What could add more value than that?
6. Add a P.S. to follow-up emails
It's important to follow up with your new contacts, so what if you added a little something extra to your outreach? Experts say the P.S. is an eye-catching part of any email that contacts are sure to read. You can pass along an article they'd find useful or information about an upcoming event, for instance.
7. Act as a sounding board
If you're able to think creatively and collaborate effectively, you can help fine tune someone else's idea or simply offer to be a listening ear. Many of the world's most successful entrepreneurs pay top dollar to join high-level masterminds and bounce ideas off one another. Filling this role for a new contact -- even on a much smaller scale -- can be a valuable offer.
8. Ask "What are you focusing on and how can I help?"
When you use active listening, networking becomes effortless. It shifts the focus away from figuring out how to provide someone value. Instead, you're giving a colleague the chance to reveal it to you.
A version of this article was originally published on Inc.com.
Melody Wilding helps ambitious women and female entrepreneurs master their inner psychology for success and happiness. She teaches human behavior at The City University of New York and is a nationally recognized Master Coach who distills psychological insights into actionable career advice. Learn more at melodywilding.com.