Nurturing your Network

Created On: 14 August, 2016 Created By: Amber Travis-Ballinas, Career Coach

 I’m networking...now what? You have decided to take every opportunity to build your professional network. You understand the real goal of networking. You have conducted your research. You are prepared to network anytime, anywhere, and you are regularly performing networking functions. Now, you must develop these relationships, so that you can ask for support, from the person who can provide it, whenever you need it, without feeling awkward.

Follow-up ASAP!  The first thing you must do is to connect with the contact immediately after seeing or talking with them. You should follow-up with any new contact within 24-48 hours of meeting them. If you already know the contact, follow-up within 5 days of seeing or speaking with them.

·      Send a short note or email stating that “…it was a pleasure seeing you…and I enjoyed our conversation about…”

·      Request to connect on social media networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, or other affinity networking sites, if you have not already done so.

·      Include information that you discussed with the contact to personalize your correspondence. (This is why you take notes!)

·      Ask what you can do to assist them.

Always follow through. Keep your promises. When you meet a new contact, it is critical to demonstrate that you are reliable and credible. You must follow through and actually do what you said that you would do in a timely manner.

This single act will build trust and set you apart from 80% of the population, because most people make a lot of promises but do not follow through. Following through and keeping your promises will create a situation where the contact now feels that they must reciprocate. It also gives you a legitimate reason to stay in touch with the contact.

Keep track of your contacts. In order to effectively stay connected with a growing group of professional contacts, you must stay organized. Having a formal process and system for managing information allows you to easily stay in touch with all of your contacts.

·      Keep your contact information organized by using a database program like MS Access, an MS Excel spreadsheet, or electronic address book.

·      Make it simple by using a scanner that automatically enters contact information from a scanned business card into your contact database.

·      Code your database by industry, contact type, area of expertise, etc., so that you can easily find the contacts with the information, expertise, or knowledge that you need when you need it.

·      Update your contact database annually. (Another legitimate reason to stay in touch with your contacts.)

Nurture your network. Stay in touch with your contacts regularlynot just when you need help.  There is nothing worse than knowing that someone is contacting you only because ‘they want something’ from you. Don’t be that person!!! When you stay in touch on a regular basis, it is easier to ask for needed support or assistance when you need it without appearing to be a ‘user’.

·      Reach out to each contact a minimum of four times per year to stay connected.

·      Pre-schedule these communications and add reminders to your calendar, so that you remember to reach out regularly.

·      Call, write, email regularly. Send birthday, anniversary, and holiday greetings via mail or email.

·      Invite contacts to have coffee, lunch, happy hour, or to attend events with you so you can stay connected.

·      Always ask what you can do for them.

Be patient. Networking is a slow, continuous process. Just like any personal relationship; a strong professional network takes time to develop and grow.  It takes patience, consistency, and persistence to be successful. The time, effort, energy, and focus that you invest in nurturing your network will pay off exponentially in the long term.

If you follow these guidelines, eventually you will have a strong group of contacts that will be ready and willing to assist and support you whenever you need them. And, you will have achieved the main goal of networking. 

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