However, most people I know aren’t very good at keeping in touch with their contacts, until something happens to make them realize they need them. Getting in contact with your network only when you need something from them definitely isn’t what you’d call effective networking.
Even if you are not actively looking for a new job, networking will help you to establish a wide range of contacts who can expand your knowledge of your industry.
Of course, if you are job hunting, networking is critical. In today’s job market, a significant percentage of positions are filled through personal and business connections.
Therefore, the more relationships you can establish, the greater your chances of learning about openings before they are advertised. Having a wide network gives you a competitive advantage over other job seekers, especially if you work in a really specialized discipline/sector.
Here are my 5 tips on how to keep in touch with your contacts:
1) Revive your contact list
Don’t ask your contacts outright for their help finding a job – it puts them in an uncomfortable position where they might have to say no to you and nobody likes doing that. As a Sr. Recruiter, I get so many messages from virtual strangers who expect me to find them a job even though I have never recruited in their area of expertise and I’ve never met them – it is not a very effective strategy.
Instead, if possible, go to your contacts with something to offer them. Doing so will increase your chances of hearing something from them which may benefit you.
2) Personalize your approach.
Find some information that might be useful to each person you want to contact. For example, if you hear about a job opportunity you know they’d be interested in, an interesting article or an event – let them know. If it is of some value to them, it will give you an opportunity to begin your conversation.
If you can’t find anything to offer your contacts, your second best option would be asking for their advice or an opinion.
For example you might ask:
“I’m looking at a job in your industry and I’d like to find out more about what’s going on, would it be possible to have a quick chat?”
“My career development to date has been quite similar to yours and as I’m thinking about my next step, I was wondering if I could arrange a quick call to talk to you briefly about your experiences?”
The great thing about questions like these is that they don’t put your contact on the spot, so they don’t feel threatened and most likely they’ll feel flattered a bit since you are treating them as an expert.
Notice I’ve said a ‘brief chat’. Personally, I am more inclined to speak to someone if I know they are not going to try to use an hour of my time.
3) Keep Building a Career Network
You don’t have to spend a lot of time networking, but make sure you take the time to add connections to your network on a regular basis. The bigger your network, the more opportunities you’ll have when you’re job searching. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/margaretbuj/
4) Stay Connected to Your Network
One of the biggest mistakes is forgetting about your network once you’ve built it. It’s important that your connections know you are there. Post status updates on LinkedIn or Facebook if appropriate, post interesting links to your social networking pages etc.
If you have a blog that’s appropriate for professional connections to read, share it on social networking pages. I offer lots of interviewing and job search advice on my blog:
Once a week or so, email or send a LinkedIn message to say 5 connections to ask how they are doing. When you stay in touch with your connections, it shows that you care about how they are doing. If you’re engaged and interested, your contacts will be more likely to help you if and when you need it.
With the connections you are close enough to meet in-person, have a cup of coffee or lunch once in a while.
5) Expand your network by attending events
One of the best ways to expand your network is by attending events relevant to your industry/area of expertise. Most people are more willing to talk at meetings or events than when they are busy in the office.
Before going to any event, make sure to do your homework. Read the organization’s newsletter or visit its web site – the more knowledge you have, the more informed you’ll be when you start speaking with members.
If you want to meet a specific person at the event, try to find an existing contact who can introduce you to this person. If this is not possible, wait for an appropriate moment and make the introduction yourself. Then, ask if the person has a moment or two.
It is best to start with a safe, friendly topic. This is where the time you’ve spent learning about the organization or relevant issue, will really come in handy. You can start the conversation by discussing a matter related to the organization or topic itself, and later ask if it’s possible to contact this person at a later time. After the meeting, send a thank you note to them and follow up with an e-mail a few days later.
Remember that networking is a process. You need to take a structured approach when building your network, meeting new people and helping others. Treat networking with the same dilligence you bring to your daily work, and over time you’ll yield significant benefits.
Margaret Buj is an interview and career acceleration coach who specializes in helping others to discover what their unique strengths are so that they feel confident about selling themselves with ease and confidence during job interviews.
In the last 10 years she’s recruited thousands of people for major American corporations and since she started her own career coaching business 7 years ago, she’s coached hundreds using the unique knowledge gained on the other side of the desk.
If you want to find out how recruiters read resumes, why you’re not getting hired, how to sell yourself successfully in a job interview and how to negotiate your best salary yet, you can download her ‘You’re HIRED!’ free video course at http://www.Interview-Coach.co.uk