Is it even possible to disconnect from your network anymore?
With the rise of social media and other communication technology, it may feel like you’re always plugged into your very own intricate web of connections consisting of friends, family and colleagues alike. In truth, these fotools have gone a long way towards breaking down the walls between professional and personal contacts.
However, at the heart of networking is more than just a click of approval or a friendly share of a great story; impactful networking is about creating and maintaining real, honest human connections.
Imagine you’ve met a new professional in your field during a networking event, or just made a handful of introductions while interviewing for a new position. You feel great! After all, who knows what you may learn from each other? Yet, after seeking each other out on LinkedIn, your professional relationship has stalled. After a few months, this new connection can easily go from an exciting new link in your career chain, to an embarrassing, “who was that, again?”
To avoid networking amnesia, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite tips for nurturing your network, from first introductions to lifelong learning:
Listen Up!
Whether you’re meeting back up with a longtime connection or sharing stories to your newest social audience, it can be easy to fall into the trap of, “I”:
“I’ve been loving my new job!”
“I think this is the best and only way to do business.”
“I’m actually looking for something new.”
Rather than unloading a list of accomplishments or sending along urgent pleas for help to your personal and professional network, take the opportunity to actively listen whenever possible. Not only will you be able to better pick up on important details that will help you retain key information about each contact, but you will be better able to forge a lasting connection. If you’re truly invested in what your network is up to, they may be more willing to support you when you need it most!
Keep Track of Everything
Whether you’re in the middle of a job search or just looking to expand your knowledge base, it can be difficult to remember all of the information you gather when meeting new people. From names to company affiliation to titles, the details can start piling up fast. Depending on how you met an individual in your network, the time to get caught up on important information can be limited.
Rather than risk forgetting key points, do your best to keep track of your ever expanding networks in a way that works for you. Maybe this means entering business card details into a spreadsheet of contacts you’ve made within your industry. Or perhaps you take a moment to add some key notes into your phone’s contact details when meeting someone new. However you choose to do so, make sure to keep track of everyone you’re meeting along your career path. Not only will it help you to remember details in the short term, but this practice may just help you remember the right person for the right job a long way down the road.
Take the Next Step
In the end, you’re responsible for maintaining a healthy relationship with the people and organizations most important to you! With that in mind, take it upon yourself to make the next step in the relationship. For example, maybe it’s time to ask an old boss out for coffee to discuss an industry you are passionate about? Or, if you feel as though a new connection is in danger of slipping away due to the digital divide, take the lead and reach out beyond a social profile to connect via phone. However you choose to engage with your network, do it with a personal touch and never be afraid to take a leap of faith.
Nurturing your network goes beyond a handshake and the occasional online “like”; it’s an on-going process that involves thoughtful listening, long term planning and active outreach.
Do you have any tips for maintaining a robust professional network? Post them in the comments section below!