We all know that attending networking events are an essential part of your career development, I don’t need me to tell you that. What people of all professional levels often forget is to follow up. Follow up doesn’t just mean calling them once, or having a single coffee meeting. Networking follow up is about developing a relationship with the people you meet and are relevant to your area of focus.
Defining Your Terms
Networking can take many forms; attending a networking event, building a new network, introducing yourself to recruiters, or reconnecting with former contacts. Regardless of the channel, timely and effective follow-up is imperative.
Networking or keeping in touch does not rank high in most people’s list of favorite activities. However, it is essential to cultivating relationships for the long haul. Those relationships you create now will be your strongest support as you develop your career. Who do you think is going to put in a good word for you at that firm you’re interested in, your kid brother?
New phone, Who’s This
When you connect with someone new, don’t drop the ball by forgetting to follow up. Follow up within 24 hours. If you have just met a new contact or a recruiter, reach out to them as soon as possible while you are still fresh in their minds.
Your follow up should be purposeful and if possible, contain some content that might be beneficial to that person like an interesting article, or specific information you can pass along. Think of networking like a bank account. You have to put something in before you can take something out. The effort you put into your follow up will reap big rewards.
Good Eye, Sniper
Focus on each contact to build relationships; quality over quantity. Get to know the personal interests, challenges, and needs of those in your network. By getting to know your contacts, you are building your bank of knowledge and when the opportunity presents itself, you can leverage your knowledge to assist your contacts when they’re in need. People trust those they sense are genuinely interested in them, and will do something for someone that has done something for them in the past.
Use LinkedIn to connect and stay current. When building your network, you want to look for any opportunities to congratulate or offer assistance. LinkedIn alerts makes it too easy by alerting you to birthdays, promotions, new positions, special announcements, and anything else that your contacts may be doing professionally.
Additionally, be thinking of ways to connect people in your network. Imagine if you are contacted by a recruiter, but you were not the right candidate their search. By introducing them to someone who might better fit the criteria the recruiter will appreciate your help, and could be a resource for you in the future.
In this scenario the recruiter will appreciate your introductions as well as knowing you could be a resource for them in the future. They will remember you for that and that can translate to goodwill.
It’s a SOCIAL Network
Inviting new and old acquaintances to connect on LinkedIn can be a no brainier to help build your network too. Send any messages to these connections via by LinkedIn message or email after you are part of one another’s network
Pro tip: Don’t ask questions in your invitation. LinkedIn allows messages, but most people only accept or ignore a connection requests.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to ask someone you’re not connected to for an introduction to one of their contacts on LinkedIn. Not everyone is comfortable with this though. Some people view LinkedIn like most people view Facebook, only for close personal contacts. Don’t just assume they will be ok with introducing you.
Don’t Be a Pest
Sounds like an obvious piece of advice, but we can all forget our manners sometimes when they want to make a particular connection. Follow up within 24 hrs of a meeting, then again within a week or two if you don’t hear back to gently remind them of your message. If you don’t hear back after that, plan to reach out in a month or two.
Broadcast Your Success
Follow up also means that you will reach out to your contacts to tell them about your new position, to thank them again for any assistance they may have provided, and to remind them of your desire to help them or someone they know so that they will reach out to you. That’s what makes a relationship meaningful and effective.
Successful networkers are always fostering long-term over time, not just when you need something (like a new job. This will strengthen the ties to your network for years to come and give you a powerful advantage over your peers.