If your personal brand is the tip of a glacier above water, then a strong network is the large bottom part of the glacier underneath the water. What I mean is that one of the main purposes of building a well-known personal brand is to be able to connect with people around you who have common goals and ambitions. Your network is your only insurance policy, and by forging a vast and relevant network, you’ll be able to become more successful in your career. The third step in the personal branding process, as outlined in my book Me 2.0, explains that once you have built a brand (based on your passion), you can start communicating through various communities, both online and offline, to grow your platform and expand your relationships. I’m starting incorporate more networking slides into my presentations (I speak to companies, associations, and universities) because you need to start thinking about your support system constantly (which is the bottom of the success triangle).

I’ve narrowed down the art of relationship building and networking into four rules that I would like to share with you today. I promise you that if you follow these rules, or at least some of them, you will be much more successful in establishing relationships with people that can support your career moving forward.

1. Mutualism

I don’t know about you, but my favorite science class in college was biology. I wasn’t a big fan of chemistry and I wouldn’t even dare to register for physics. In trying to relate relationships between personal brands, the word “mutualism” came to mind as an important theme.

Definition (from Wikipedia): a biological interaction between two organisms, where each individual derives a fitness benefit.

Mutualism is like a win-win situation, where you help someone else, and are supported in the same regard.  When it comes to networking, mutualism is about reciprocity. If you help me, I’ll help you and visa versa. Think about the relationship between a sea anemone and a clownfish. The sea anemone provides the clown fish with protection from predators through it’s tentacles, and the fish defends the sea anemone against butterfly fish, which eat anemone’s. Think about your relationships in the same way. Ask yourself “what am I doing for my network”? And then ask yourself “have I ever asked for anything in return”? Please don’t think this is a transaction. It’s more of a test to see if you’re establishing mutualistic relationships where everyone wins. Also, everyone has to win or someone will walk away with a bad taste in their mouth.

2. Targeting

You’ve probably heard people explain how you should be friends with everyone. I don’t think this is humanly possible and feel that it is poor advice. I would rephrase it to state that you shouldn’t make enemies (at least on purpose) because of how fast negative word-of-mouth can spread in this viral environment we live in. Instead of focusing on the masses, become more targeted with your relationships. Not everyone is going to like you, and if you think they do, then you haven’t made your mark on society or stood for something controversial yet.

Definition: connecting with the right people that you’re geniunely interested in.

The idea for targeting dates back to my post on “people searching instead of job searching.” In that post I explained how you want to be very focused in your job search, and instead of using job boards, go directly to people who can help you get your foot in the door. With targeting for relationships, it works in the same way. You need to pinpoint the people that you’re genuinely interested in, and attach yourself to them. Trust me, it will be easy if you truly care about the individual and you’re not trying to use them for some alternative motive.

3. Giving

People like Bob Burg, Gretchen Rubin, Seth Godin, Scott Bradley, Lewis Howes, and others have mastered the subtle art of giving before receiving. I remember the day when I was on the phone with a high profile journalist and author and I told her “how can I help you,” before even asking for anything. She was mesmerized and couldn’t believe that I wasn’t begging for an interview or for her to make a connection for me. People are so used to being used and abused that when you turn the tides on the relationship, they are more willing to help you even above what you could imagine.

Definition: showing support for someone else, without asking for anything in return.

The more you give, the more you can create a sense of positive karma around your brand. People will want to support you, lend you opportunities and open up doors. By giving, before receiving, you become a better person and a brand that people want to surround themselves with.

4. Reconnecting

A lot of people have difficulty with growing and maintaining their relationships, especially online.  If you aren’t constantly reconnecting with people, you will fall out of mind and space. By keeping in touch, whether it’s a phone call, text message, Skype chat, instant messaging, social networking or other, you can further develop a relationship and make it bloom (create a new opportunity).

Definition: maintaining a connection with others and never losing touch.

Have you ever lost touch with someone? If you take a week to answer someone’s voicemail, delay your interview follow-up for a few days, or touch base with a long lost friend after a decade, what do you think their response will be. I bet they will either disregard your communication attempt or be caught off-guard and respond hesitantly. The point is that you need to target the right group of people to surround yourself with, and cater to them constantly, without long intervals of no communication.

Your  turn

Are you following any of these four rules of relationships? What are you having the most difficulty with?