October 3, 2012 | | Leave a comment I bet you never thought of business networking like a vegetable garden. Such an image seems far away from the dreaded experience of walking up to people and trying to convince them to be your friend so you can use them later to get a job. But, in actuality, networking is more than going to a meeting and adding people to your contacts list. It takes consistent nurturing and attentiveness. As you genuinely reach out to and give assistance to the people in your network, wonderful opportunities naturally come your way. So how do you give your network this kind of T.L.C.? It’s easier than you think. Here are five good networking habits to get you started: 1. Connect on LinkedIn right away. After you meet a great potential addition to your network, don’t hesitate to look them up on LinkedIn and extend the invitation to connect. LinkedIn is a great place to keep track of the people in your network and to let them know how your career is going. And the day you meet them is the best time to get them into your network. You are, in effect, paying them the compliment of saying, “Hey, I enjoyed meeting you enough that I really wanted to keep in touch.” Unemployment, on the other hand, is the worst time to add people to your network. It sends an opposite message, something like, “Hey, I know I didn’t bother to connect with you before, but, now that I’m in trouble, I’m desperate.” Make adding these individuals to your network right away. This way you know they’ll be there when you need them. 2. Let your network know about your career changes. Whether you’ve been promoted, switched companies, gone back to school, or lost your job, keep your network updated. By letting them know what’s happening, you are showing them that you care enough to tell them and investing them in your career journey. Especially in times of unemployment, although this can seem embarrassing, notifying your network can open the doors for them to help you. Although LinkedIn isn’t the only way to do this, it is a great way to do this. Before you think that this post is a LinkedIn advertisement, you can also do this through social media, your blog, or good, old-fashioned email. 3. Congratulate others on their accomplishments. When you hear that a friend in your network was promoted or got that job they’ve been looking for, reply with a small message of congratulations. This only takes seconds, but it is a good way of letting them know that you are invested in their success, making them much more likely to reciprocate. 4. Offer help when needed. When you hear that things aren’t going so well for someone in your network, if appropriate, you might consider offering your services to them. If they’ve lost their job, offer to pass their resume along if any positions open up at your company. If they want to connect with someone else in your network, offer to make the introduction. As stated in other posts on the subject, networking is a cycle of favors. If you nurture your network by helping them where you can, your network will return the favor when you need it. 5. Talk about your career with others. At any given time-especially when you’re career isn’t going well-you may feel awkward talking to people outside of work about your job situation. Even if things are just fine, you may not like mixing talk about work with pleasure. However, although you shouldn’t talk only about your job in social situations, you shouldn’t shy away from letting people know what’s going on in your career. Most people consider this a perfectly acceptable topic. Subtly and positively, let people know if you need help in your career or if you’re looking for better work. And, of course, listen to them when they talk about their careers. What are some of your favorite business networking habits? Tell us your secrets in the comments below!