Everyone knows how important it is to build up a network.
But once you’ve made that network of connections with people, how do you maintain them over a long period of time?
Getting your foot in the door and making connections with others is hard, but making long-lasting connections is even more difficult.
Recent studies show how invaluable networking is when it comes to a person’s professional success, such as getting promotions, having influence, earning more money, and feeling more satisfied and fulfilled in one’s career. Networks give people access to valuable information, including professional advice and assistance with solving problems in the workplace.
You’ll never know when you need to get in contact with someone for help, such as for a job reference or other professional favor, so it’s good to make sure that the connections within your professional network are long-term rather than short-term. If you’re not staying in touch with past connections, then you’re cutting yourself off from a lot of potential opportunities for growth, development and success.
- How frequently should you reach out and be in touch with your professional contacts?
- How do you balance efforts to bring in new connections while also taking care of those whom you’ve known for a while?
- How do you maintain your professional network over the years?
Here are some answers to these questions, provided by Rebecca Knight (Professor at Wesleyan University), Herminia Ibarra (Professor at INSEAD) and Francesca Gino (Professor at Harvard Business School)
Know What’s Important
Group your contacts into categories, such as current clients, potential clients, influential colleagues, powerful colleagues and friends. Also think about the ways in which your relationships, both personal and professional, can improve your life.
Then figure out where you should best allocate your attention, or which groups of contacts you should prioritize over others, for your long-term professional network.
Nuture The Relationship
Think about all the tools and technologies you have on hand to communicate with your connections and how best you can use these to nurture your relationships.
Whether through phone, email, handwritten notes or coffee dates, reach out to your connections to show them that you care. You can reach out for many reasons, such as a birthday, new job, meeting a common connection, reading about them and so on.
Always be in the orbit of the people who you’re trying to cultivate, so that if you ever need their help with something, they will be more inclined to lend a hand.
Don’t Hide Online
We live and work in the Digital Age, which means that staying connected with people, from both your past and your present, is easier than ever before thanks to social media.
However, an over-reliance on using social media to maintain your professional network over a long period of time, might not be the best idea.
Don’t just rely on social media to stay connected. Use it to your advantage, such as trading direct messages with your networking contacts on Twitter or reposting content that they’ve created on their blogs or Facebook, but also stay connected with them by speaking or meeting in person.
Be of Assistance
Always look for ways that you can be helpful to your contacts.
Observe and listen carefully to what they have to say and the problems that they are facing. Then see if there is any way you can help them or be of use.
Make sure that your motives are pure and not selfish. Always be genuine, authentic and sincere to create a sense of respect and appreciation. Appearing shallow and self-motivated is counterproductive to maintaining your professional network over a long period of time.
Never brag about your accomplishments and achievements.
It’s a good thing to let your connections know about any professional successes like job promotions, but don’t gain a reputation as someone who brags.
You can mildly promote yourself, but never go so far as to appear pretentious or egotistical.
Don’t Be Desperate
Friendships, whether professional or personal, are just one of those things that cannot be forced.
If there is someone from your past who want to keep in touch with, but they’ve never responded to your attempts to reach out, then just let it go.
Don’t overly concern yourself with connections that are one-sided because appearing desperate and clueless will only make you appear less desirable. Shallow or non-mutual connections are not worth the effort and will never last long.
Regroup Now and Then
Every couple of months or so, regroup your professional ties.
Take a look at your contacts and networking priorities, and see if they are still relevant.