Now that I have talked about how to network, the next step is to maintain the relationships with your contacts and keep up your network. Here are some actions that you can take.
1. Keep track of your network. If you are active networker, you will realize as time goes by, you have more and more contacts. However, how can you keep track of so many contacts while you are trying to meet more people? Excel will be your best assistant. Make an Excel worksheet of all your contacts, including their name, contact info, company, position and how you meet them. In that way, it is easier for you to manage, and divide your contacts into subgroups, such as by categories (e.g. “financial service”, “banking”, “insurance”…)
Another thing that I would recommend is to take notes of the conversation. It shows that you care about what they said, and it is good for the continuity of the relationship. Think this way, both of you and your contacts are busy, and no one is going to remember what you talked about last time. So the notes will help you to refresh your memory, and next time you meet, you can pick up on where you left. And, notes will also help you to better customize your thank you note. (Yes, don’t forget to send the thank you note to your contacts.)
2. Check in with your contacts regularly. You don’t want your contact to forget about you; neither do you want them to get annoyed. Therefore, common recommending length for check-in is monthly. Shoot them an email and give them some updates about you, or do a stock pitch, or send them a business-related article. Hint: find an excuse to reconnect.
3. Pay the visit if possible. If your contact’s geographic location is near yours, you should try to arrange a personal meeting with them. For example, I go to school in Boston, and I would visit my contacts in New York City. Yes, it is kind of far, it takes you four hours to get to the city. But think of the other way, this 4 hours bus ride will make you stand out. It differentiates you by taking a step further to meet them in person, instead of calling over phone. It shows that you care more, and you are willing to work harder.
4. Be likable. I know, sometimes is hard, because you don’t know if your contact will like you or not especially when you never met before. From my experiences, I generally found professionals who want to help out are very forgiving. Be professional, be prepared and be yourself. Dressed up as if you are going to an interview, that shows your professional attitude; research about your contacts before meeting them (e.g. their company, their job responsibilities) and ask good questions; and be yourself, show your curiosity and sincerity.
5. “Give back” to your contacts. This professional relationship must be a “give and take” relationship. I often ask myself, how can I give back to my contacts, I am just a student. But after talking to my career counselor, she gave me some suggestions for me to give back, such as sending my contacts a business or trend article; a new business process that’s disrupting how organizations work; a piece of research regarding what the most innovative companies do to succeed, or things in their interested field.
I think the quality of the relationship is way more important than the quantity, and I am happy to hear more suggestions from you all. I look forward to meet with all of you on 2013 IBC at Hynes Convention Center. Should you have any questions and concerns, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jiaxinlin/. Happy Networking!