We’ve discussed how to prepare for networking, what to do once you get there, and how to engage in conversations, but the most important part of networking is the follow-up. Your entire face-to-face networking will be in vain if you don’t take the necessary steps to stay in touch with the people you have met. These five steps will help you stay connected.
- Use the Business Cards You Received.Remember all of those business cards you collected at the networking event? Don’t just throw them in a drawer after the event.Put this contact information and any related notes into a contact spreadsheet, your Outlook contacts, or your phone. Make sure to record:
- Name and Title
- Company or Organization
- Phone Number and Email Address
- Mailing or Physical Address
- Conversation Notes: Write down anything you discussed that may help you remember your full conversation.
- Contact Notes: Write down notes to help you remember who that person is the next time you see them. This could include your observations such as their physical appearance or accent.
Once you’re done, don’t throw away the cards. You’ll want the hard copies in case you lose your electronic copies. One option is to store them in a business card binder, so they’re all in one, easy to find place.
- Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, & Facebook.
Once you’ve saved the hard copy and electronic copy of the business cards, it’s essential to add these individuals to your online network. You know that social networking can help you stay in touch with your friends and family and can even help you find a job. You can also use social media sites to stay in touch with individuals you met while networking and find more ways to connect and engage with them.If you haven’t used social networking sites before, you’ll begin by setting up your account on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You can learn more about the most effective ways to use social media from some of our past blogs on social networking.Once your online profiles are ready, start connecting to your networking contacts. Become friends of your new contacts on Facebook, or become a fan of their company or organization’s Facebook Page. Follow them on Twitter and when they begin to follow you, engage in conversations with them. Add your contacts as LinkedIn connections and join the LinkedIn groups of the networking groups you are associated with. You can also join the groups that your contacts are members of through LinkedIn.By connecting through social media, you have a way to keep in touch even when people change jobs or switch email addresses. Once you are connected, stay in touch by proactively continuing dialogues with your connections.
- Set up Coffee Sessions.Just like connecting online, it is important to continue the face-to-face meetings with the people you’ve met. You may invite one of your new contacts to accompany you to the next networking event. Or, you may decide to set up one-on-one coffee sessions with each contact in order to get to know them better. Follow-up meetings allow you to:
- Finish a conversation you started while networking.
- Offer ideas to help solve a career challenge.
- Ask for advice on a career question you have.
- Ask for introductions to other contacts of theirs who may help you find more contacts in your industry or interest area.
You’ll find that it’s easier to connect with people who you don’t know very well while drinking coffee (or in my case, hot cocoa). You’ll feel more at ease in a more comfortable situation so your conversations flow easier and you can build a stronger connection.
- Find Other Networking Groups.Ask your new network for leads on other networking groups that might be interesting for you. Now you have networking buddies – you can find out when they plan to attend their next event and see if they’d like to go together.
- Stay Connected – Long Term.Networking is all about developing relationships that can help you reach your personal and/or career goals. Networking isn’t about expecting people to do things for you. It’s about engaging honestly and finding relationships that are mutually beneficial.And don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to create and sustain your network. You should focus on networking while you are happy with your career so you don’t appear to simply be looking for favors. Then when you need it the most, you will have a network of people who you can call on to help.
By connecting online, setting up occasional coffee sessions, and attending future networking events with your new contacts, you will expand your network and continue to stay in contact. Maintaining long-term relationships with networking contacts can be time consuming and often difficult with varying schedules, but in the end it is worth the extra time.
Good luck networking – get out there and enjoy learning new things!
If you missed it, make sure you catch up on the previous posts in this blog series:
- Networking – Be Prepared, Not Scared
- Networking – You are there, now what?
- But, but, but…what do I say while networking?