Networking: The Stages of Nurturing a Professional Contact

As you graduate from college or start that new internship, it’s important to think about how you’re going to use and maintain the contacts that you’ve made and will make in the future. The internet has made networking and keeping in touch easier than ever. It’s also vital to go beyond your computer to show your appreciation, interest and enthusiasm. Remember to cultivate professional relationships — you never know whose help you may need in the future.

Initial Contact: What to do when you go home.
So you’re at a networking event, you’ve been meeting new people left and right. Before you leave, make sure you share your business cards with everyone you met. Don’t have any cards? Go to moo.com and design your awesome cards today. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for their card! Careerealism’s Deborah Shane suggests analyzing your RON — return on networking and reaching out to those who are beneficial to your network. Following an event Deborah says to utilize social media, which is “is the bridge that can help you get into people’s communities, stream, conversations and get you started in building commonality. Use LinkedIn as a starting point, add Twitter and then if appropriate Facebook. Comment on their blog, or invite them to your blog.” When you get home or even on your way home connect with your new contacts on Linkedin and send a link to your personal website or blog.” Personalizing your messages is always a plus! Try something like, “It was great meeting you at the Intelligent.ly event yesterday. Thanks for all the tips. Hope to see you again soon.”

The In-between Stage: Reach out to show that you’re tuned in.
Show that you’re tuned in to what your contacts are up to.  In her Simply Hired blog article, Annie Favreau says, “You don’t want to get labeled as a ‘connect and dash’ networker! So nurture your relationships by socializing, sharing useful information, and helping connect other people. By taking part in an active community, you can boost your reputation as a relevant, informed, and valuable contact.” If you meet someone at an event that you think would be a great contact for a friend, introduce them to one another! When you come across an article that mentions advice from a new contact, email them and send your congratulations. It shows them that you’re engaged and up to speed.

Going for the Gold: How can I help you and how can you help me?
Be sure that you are adding value to the relationship. Reach out and offer your services. Volunteer  (check out volunteermatch.org) when you have time, to boost your resume and stay active. If you’re a master of PHP, offer your programming skills to a contact who mentioned they’ve been looking for a programmer. Hopefully by the time you need help, you’ll have established a positive relationship with the person and they’ll want to help you! Or even better, maybe you won’t even have to ask. Once you’ve proven yourself, they might just recommend you. After all, a significant amount of jobs are obtained through networking. If someone makes an introduction for you, show your thanks by sending your contact a handwritten “thank you” card. An email is fine, but a handwritten card proves that you took time and care to express your gratitude.

For more networking advice check out Three Qualities that Net Jobs for Networkers!