Seven strategies for maintaining your professional network over the years
EVERYONE knows it’s important to build a network. But once you’ve made a connection with someone, how do you maintain it over the years?
Here are some expert strategies:
1. Prioritise. Group your contacts into categories — for example, current clients, potential clients, influential and powerful colleagues — and then figure how best to allocate your attention.
2. Show you care. Think about the different tools in your arsenal to stay in touch — email, phone calls, coffee dates, social gatherings and handwritten notes — and how you can best use these to nurture your relationships.
3. Be strategic with social media. Trade direct messages with your contacts on Twitter, repost their content on LinkedIn, or retweet blogs and articles they’ve highlighted. Even better, take the conversation offline.
4. Offer to help. Remain in good standing with your contacts by looking for ways you can be helpful to them. Learn what challenges they face, and think about what you can do for them.
5. Don’t brag. Although it’s good for your network to know about your professional successes and promotions, you don’t want to gain a reputation as a braggart. Simply inform the other person about what you have been up to in a way that provides information he or she does not have.
6. Don’t force friendships. If you keep reaching out to someone and they don’t seem interested, it’s probably a sign to give up. Shallow connections are just not worth the effort.
7. Regroup from time to time. Every six months or so, do an audit of your professional ties. Over time, you will cycle people in and out of your network.
(Adapted from "How to Maintain Your Professional Network Over the Years" at HBR.org.)
Harvard Business Review