If you look back at successful teams, programs and people, what is one characteristic that stands out?  The key trait that stands out with successful people is TRUST and RELATIONSHIPS.  If you build solid relationships and people can trust you, your programs will be very successful.

You may sit there and ask yourself, “Well, how do I build those solid relationships?”  The answer is quite simply by networking.  The following tips are keys to success outside of athletics for successful futures.

Regardless of your field of endeavor, networking and connecting with others are essential to your growth. It does matter who you know and it does matter what you know. Here are five tips on how to network.

1. Say something unexpected: When someone asks, “What do you do?” be prepared to say something that shows the results you get vs. the standard of what you do. Making your first response something unexpected will often give the conversation momentum and have the other party intrigued to ask for more information.

2. Have good hand & eye coordination: A firm handshake is an important part of a first impression and networking. Lose the fist bump, hug and fraternity brother style handshake that you give to your closest friends. Instead, go with the web-to-web, firm yet gentle squeeze while administering one downward shake that travels about 1 inch.

3. Be positive: A sure way to turn off the person who you are meeting for the first time is to come in with negative energy. Instead of complaining about the traffic or the GPS that got you lost, come in with positive energy and presence.

4. Ask questions: The sooner you can turn the conversation from yourself to them the better. People genuinely like talking about themselves as they are most familiar with that topic. Think TAT – Talk About Them.

5. Tee up the conversation for the future: You are not trying to close a sale or a deal in the first interaction with someone. You are simply trying to set up another time in the future to talk.

6. Follow up: Be sure that you follow up on your leads and new contacts. Some people prefer to follow up on LinkedIn or via the handwritten message. Whatever your preferred method, be sure that you follow up and say where you met within 48 hours of your meeting or you are less likely to follow up at all.