By Marleen Graham

Experts say that networking is about exchange and building relationships. However, how can one know when a network contact has developed into a professional relationship?

Here is my personal top 10 list (in no particular order) of how I determine when my network contact moves from a mere contact to a professional relationship.

1.       If they did not give me their phone number from our first meeting, and one day after numerous conversations, their phone number pops up in their message or e-mail without me asking for it.  Sometimes I don’t even see the phone number because they did not say give me a call or anything.   I will go back to the message to re-read or reply and then notice the phone #.  I usually say something silly like “wow, I stepped up a notch in your network “or something else.   When they give you their cell, home, work, mother’s phone number (lol) etc, you really know that they trust you and a professional relationship has formed

2.       When we speak on the phone and there is no awkward silence, and I feel like I am speaking to a long lost friend.

3.       When they contact me out of the blue and say “I was thinking about you today and here is why your name popped up in my head.”  Hopefully it is for good reasons.

4.       When I receive a LinkedIn recommendation without asking for one.

5.       When they contact me to ask for advice, and don’t feel sorry that they bugged me.

6.       They feel comfortable to vent frustrations without fear that I will view them differently.

7.       When I receive a gift via US Mail from a network contact and they did not tell me they would be sending something.  This point can be scary if you don’t know the person well because it is a surprise.

8.       They recommend me for a job or forward job leads when I am not even searching for a job.  This is a great one because I receive leads that I would have never come across on my own.  Keep them coming…  I usually share these jobs with my networking group.

9.       When you receive a message that states that you don’t need to register and pay for an event, and they ask you to come as their guest.  This is mind blowing but really happened.

10.   When people spread the word about my company without me asking them to.
I am sure there is much more that can indicate when your network contact has grown into a professional relationship but that is my small list.  I posted this question in my networking group, Success Through Networking, and people chimed in with additional information.

So, tell me how do you determine when a network contact develops into a professional relationship?  Please don’t reply when we got married or something like that.  I am looking for professional relationships, not social, or dating.

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