Imagine you got a call a couple of weeks ago from someone who in your network who wanted some information for benchmarking or maybe information about an open position at your company. That’s cool — you love to help out where you can, right? How would you feel if the last time you heard from that person was two years ago when they had another question for you about benchmarking data and the time before that they were asking for something again? You might feel like your relationship was a little one-sided. You hear it all the time — “grow your network,” “leverage your network,” “work your network.” Are you guilty of neglecting your networking? Or only reaching out when you need something? No one likes that — you don’t want to be “that guy” right? Many of us are good at growing a network — but need some help on the “maintaining the network” part. Well if you need help in this area, this time of year offers a great opportunity to re-engage your network with a small amount of effort. The good news is, many of you do this naturally in your personal lives this time of year so you are already in the mindset — you just need to take some of those practices and apply them to your professional networks… and maybe get a jumpstart for 2014.
The way that you can get the most of a network is to find ways to build honest and sincere relationships. While I LOVE happy hours, parties, gift and cards (“gifts” is one of my “languages of appreciation”) it may not be practical to apply to your entire network. I do however like to do small happy hour or small gatherings when it makes sense. For example, if I am headed to my hometown and I can arrange time for colleagues or alum who may be in town, a happy hour is not only a great time for me to reconnect with my network, but for them to reconnect with each other. This only works for part of my network though. My recommendation, use these methods to those in your network that it makes the most sense for since this can be expensive, time -sensitive, and may have geographic limitations. You already know that – and have probably already planned this kind of stuff, right? But what about the rest of your network? Keep it simple, keep it social. The intent is to say, “hello” and to let them know that you’re thinking of them and hopefully open up a door to chat and converse back and forth.
Networking in the social/online realm:
Write a letter or blog with “what you’ve been up to” in 2013 or plans you have for 2014 — maybe consider writing both and send them to different segments of your network. People always like to hear what others have been up to — be sure to include lots of photos 🙂 Encourage others to reply with theirs as well.
Music fan? Dedicate a song to some folks in your network — tag your friends in it or take it a step further and put together a small playlist.
Send a virtual card. I like to send “Happy New Year” e-card/photos and sentiments to my professional network. This allows me to focus December on close family and friends (and close colleagues) and January on my professional networking connections.
Create a 2014 “vision board” and ask those in your network to help contribute to it — you’ll can create collaboration and accountability.
Get creative – remember the point is to engage and exchange. This time of year is a natural time to make new connections to add your network when you are out and about at holiday events (I know y’all, you’re like a scout, always be prepared, you never know who you might meet). Just don’t forget the awesome people you’ve already have in your network. You never know when you need to use your network, so “don’t be that guy” — nurture and build the relationships now.
Master networker? What are you tips to keeping in touch and engaged with your network?