Are you a New Year’s resolution kind of person? I am not. While I believe strongly in setting goals, I have never been inclined to set them around a calendar year for the sake of tradition.

A few years ago, I noticed a trend among some of my colleagues and friends. In place of setting a specific resolution, they are choosing a word of the year.

If you’re unfamiliar, choosing a word of the year is something that is done instead of, or maybe in addition to, setting a specific resolution for the new year. The idea is that you choose a word that will guide and inspire you throughout the year. It is said to be a powerful way to set intentions for the coming year, allowing you to focus on a way you want to feel or what you want to experience in the 365 days ahead.

One of the things I like most about this concept is that there isn’t going to be a specific moment of ultimate success or failure – it’s a lot more practical and realistic to how we lead our lives than to create a resolution that is likely to go out the window before February, anyway. With a word of the year, your focus may ebb and flow throughout the 12 months, and there will always be opportunities to improve and refocus.

This is one of those moments of refocus for me. The word I chose at the beginning of 2023: intentionality.

As we’re heading into the summer months, many in the promotional products industry, including me, are entering a season of increased business travel. This means lots of opportunities to network and a great chance to introduce intentionality to your networking.

Weaving intentionally into your networking will provide a far more effective approach to helping you reach your goals.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Define your goals. Before you start networking – in fact ,before you determine where you want to be networking – it’s important to know what you want to achieve. These could be company or individual goals.

Whether your networking goal is to learn from others, build your networking, find resources or something else, it’s important to set clear and specific goals. This will help you get the most out of the time you invest in networking.

2. Know your strengths. Determining ahead of any given networking opportunity how you can rely on your strengths to approach the situation will help set you up for success. Knowing your strengths is also important in determining how you want to present yourself and how you want to differentiate yourself from others. This will help you create a strong personal brand that will resonate with others.

3. Be strategic. Networking isn’t just about meeting people. It’s about identifying and building relationships with the right people – people who have the potential to help you achieve your goals and grow both personally and professionally.

Make sure to build in time to be intentional about how and who you are building your network with.

4. Follow up. Networking is not a one-time event – it is an ongoing process of relationship-building, so be intentional about the need to stay in contact with the key people you meet. Following up after an initial meeting and staying in touch are equally important components of the process.

Intentionally put aside time from your regular routine to connect with your network. It’s easy for this to take a back seat to the hustle and grind of our day-to-day life, especially for anyone in sales. But we must make sure to have a plan in mind to stay top of mind with your most important contacts.

As I continue my year of intentionality, I’m looking forward to putting this advice to work at PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference and Women’s Leadership Conference in June – I hope to see you there! 

Tucker is the vice president of revenue and expositions at PPAI.