Technology, in many cases, makes us lazy. It can automate previously manual, repetitive or time-consuming processes that certainly make our lives and jobs easier. But it can also let us slip into lazy practices that compromise the integrity and quality of our work.

So let’s talk about networking. Building a quality professional network is still really hard work. It takes significant investment and time. The work required to initiate, develop and foster an active, quality network is completely different and separate from the tools & processes we now have at our disposal to manage that network.

These are two very different things. A large list of connections on LinkedIn is not a network. A huge list of Outlook Contacts is not a network, any more than the phone book is your network. A list of contacts means nothing, not matter how neatly they’re organized or how much information you can sort through about them.

A quality network is what’s behind that data and behind that technology. Who do you know, how do you know them, what’s the context and depth and value of the relationship you have. Some relationships will be far deeper than others, granted. But building that depth (no matter how narrow or wide you choose to pursue it) takes a lot of hard work. Every day.

LinkedIn and Outlook and Gist and any number of really fantastic contact management tools make the operations of networking easy. They speed up the organization and management functions. But the networking itself is still hard work. And that’s where your time is still very well spent.