Yesterday, I wrote about the idea that joining a networking group and expecting that to start your phone ringing is akin to buying a hammer and expecting it to build a house for you. In both cases, you have to be the motivating force to achieve the desired outcome. All else is just a tool in your hands.

So, what do you have to do to make joining that group pay off? Let’s take a look.

  1. Make sure it supports your goals. Does the group support your ultimate networking goals? If your goal is to get more signed contracts, are the members in your target market or do they server your target market in a way that doesn’t compete with you? If you are looking for a job, are they the people or companies you want to work for? Are they likely to be connected to people whom you wish to work for? If the answer is no, then no matter how hard you work, it’s unlikely that you are going to get satisfactory results.
  2. Make sure it’s active. Are the events well-attended? How many new members join each month? Are the leadership positions filled? Do they have the staff to support their constituency? How do they deal with membership growth?
  3. Make sure you can serve. My mom always said that you should only join a group if you think you have something to contribute. In what capacity could you serve the organization? Can you help out at events? Is there a board or committee you could serve on? What special skills do you have that you could offer to the group?
  4. Make sure you show up. Even if you’ve found the perfect group, nothing will happen unless you put in the effort. Are you attending the monthly/weekly networking events? Are you showing up for your board/committee meetings?
  5. Make sure you provide value. Are you constantly seeking ways you can provide value to other members of the group? Are you doing it from sincerity with no expectation of return?
  6. Make sure you give it enough time. Remember that networking is a long-term prospect. Depending on what you are attempting to achieve, months or even years will be required before your network develops to the point that you can “effortlessly” achieve your goals.

Just like the other tools in your networking toolbox, membership in a group requires your effort to make it productive. Without it, they will just sit on the shelf, gathering dust. Used with skill and with a plan, however, those tools can build a network that can server you for life. So, go on, pick up that hammer.