A strong network is the single most effective career advancement tool you can have. Therefore, it is critical that you maintain your network by keeping in touch with the people you have developed relationships with. The holiday season is a great time to reach out to your contacts as well as people you may have fallen out of touch with. Why not send a holiday card to someone you’d like to reconnect with? Want to let someone know you’re graduating soon and looking for work, but don’t want to seem pushy? Include a handwritten note in your card to update everyone on what you’re up to. People expect these types of updates over the holidays!
Here are a eight tips additional tips for maintaining a strong network.
#1: Stay Visible
Much in the same way a celebrity stays relevant in the media, you need to stay visible and relevant to your contacts. For instance, you may stop working in the same field as many of your contacts, but don’t want to fall off their radar. How can you do that if you won’t be attending the same association or work events anymore? Read on…
#2: Stay E-mail Buddies
A common practice is to send an email every so often to the people you want to stay in touch with. This is most appropriate when you change jobs, or have an exciting announcement to make.
#3: Customize Your Message
Your list of contacts could include hundreds of people and since you can’t write a personal note to each one, at least tailor your message to each group. If you do this, make sure the content of the email is appropriate to the audience that will be reading it.
#4: Segment Your Contacts
It might be helpful to mentally segment your correspondence. For example, draft one version of your email update for contacts you consider friends, another for contacts you aren’t particularly close with, another version for clients, and so on. This is customizing your message.
#5: Be Helpful
Another way to stay visible to your contacts is to pass along any relevant information that may be useful to them. For example, if you come across an article online or in a magazine that you know would interest them, send it to them. Include a note wishing them well. Keep in mind that a gesture like this loses its impact and sincerity when you ask for something in return.
#6: Extend Invitations
If you have access to a cool event or networking opportunity – and you can bring colleagues – invite special people from your network. However, do not invite people to an event where there is an expectation that they buy a product or service – unless they are fully aware of this ahead of time and express an interest.
#7: Refer Clients
This is the second best way you can tell someone in your network that you truly value them. Refer them, their company, or their individual services and products to others.
#8: Keep Your Promises
Here is the best way to maintain strong connections to those in your network. If you say you will do something, do it. If you agree to help someone out, make sure you come through. There is nothing worse than letting others down, especially if you have the ability to come through and make good on your promise.
(It is also important that you say no when you must, and not feel guilty about it. Maintaining your integrity is just as important as maintaining your network.)