Have you ever felt awkward calling someone you haven’t spoken to in months? The task can be especially daunting if you have to ask for a favor. Just the thought of it can cause your stomach to flutter with butterflies, your palms to sweat, and a large lump to grow in your throat. So you put off making the phone call or hope for the answering machine to pick it up. If you dislike the “sorry it’s been so long” phone call, the best way to avoid this is to maintain the quality relationships you’ve built with individuals in your industry. Instead of storing business cards in your wallet to gather dust while you save them for a rainy day, put them to good use and strengthen your business connections right away.
Networking is a very important tool for being successful in the professional world. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to land a contract, making connections with people in your field can help open doors. Career fairs, networking seminars, conferences, or even volunteering at a local charity are all great places to network, but what you do after making those connections is what really counts. Maximize your networking relationships with these tips.
Connect with social networking: After you meet a new contact, find out if that professional has an account on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Twitter. If they do, make a connection with them. Following a contact on Twitter, for instance, is a great way for you to continue building a relationship with them, and vice versa. If they have a blog, leave comments and contribute to the conversation. And, remember that although you want them to know who you are, you don’t want them to think you are a creeper or a stalker, so leave comments or messages in moderation and always be professional.
Send e-mails or make phone calls: A good time to make a phone call or send an e-mail to a new contact is after you run into a person that can help enhance the success of your career. Either call or send an e-mail a day after meeting them, letting them know you enjoyed getting to speak with them. Also, inform them of your current status in the industry. If you are unemployed, they may refer you to a company looking to hire someone with your qualifications.
Send greeting cards: Greeting cards are a thoughtful way to stay in touch with someone. Depending on the relationship you have with the person, sending appropriate greeting cards can be a considerate gesture your contacts won’t forget. Send birthday cards, notes, or congratulations cards when you notice they’ve received an award or their company has an achievement. Also, keep in mind that hand-written cards will probably be more appreciated and memorable, since they’re not as common as e-mails. Most people communicate via e-mail because it’s more convenient. So hand-written notes help you stand out from the crowd and keep you top of mind. Always send a thank-you note whenever your contact helps you. Though a thank-you note may be short, the thought goes a long way!
Share industry articles: Sending industry articles or interesting materials you find that your contact could benefit from is also a thoughtful way of being helpful and staying in touch. You’re providing them with relevant information that shows you’re well informed about what’s going on in their industry.
Be a connector: Even as you look for influential contacts who can help you succeed, you should also be influential in helping your contacts to network. Find out how you can assist those you’re networking with and who you know that would benefit them. Introduce your contacts to other people you know to help make great connections, too.
Don’t become the awkward person who only calls when they need a favor. This can make you appear selfish and often leads to one-way relationships with your contacts. Ensure that both you and everyone you are networking with benefit from the relationships you share. You may be surprised how much of a difference you can make in the lives of those you help, not to mention the help you will get in return.