Networking can be fun despite how exhausting it often is (especially when you're an introvert). Attending events, meeting new people and forging genuine connections is something I'm learning to enjoy as a young professional. However, once those relationships have been formed it is important to begin maintaining and developing them over time.
Last week Jessica Journey shared three tips on how to cultivate professional relationships: send an email immediately, follow-up with a handwritten note, and connect over social media. These are great pieces of advice for getting new relationships started. Here are tips for how to continue to cultivate those relationships once you've made the connection:
Stay in contact
Once you've connected with someone and done the appropriate follow-up, don't let the relationship fall by the wayside. Decide on an appropriate time period to regularly reach out to people in your network. The best piece of advice I've received on this is to set reminders in your calendar every few months so that you don't forget. Use your best judgement on the timeframe. You may want to stay in touch with mentors on a quarterly basis while only touching base with people you met a conference twice a year.
Use your network effectively
The primary benefit of having a strong network is having the ability to tap into it when necessary. Are you looking for a new job in a specific sector? Shoot an email to people you know who are currently working in the sector asking to set up a time to chat and get some advice. Trying to figure out what kind of grad school programs you should look into? Ask your mentors if there is anyone they would recommend that you reach out to. People love to be helpful, however be mindful that they are busy just like you. Be strategic about who you ask, be specific in your request, and thank them once you've followed through with whatever they've told you to do.
Remember it's a two-way street
In addition to being sure that you don't abuse the generosity of those in your network, don't forget that relationships are a two-way street. You should be contributing to your network as much, if not more, than you are benefiting. I personally enjoy randomly sharing articles and resources as they remind me of someone. You can also do this by simply being responsive to other people's requests for advice/help. If you don't have access to the resources they need, refer them to others in your network who might be able to help.
What other ways do you actively develop the relationships in your network?