No one wants to be contacted only in times of need.
That’s what gives networking a bad rap.
The best way to build a solid network is to contact people when you don’t need anything. Even for jobseekers that find themselves networking to jumpstart their search, you do not want your first contact (or even your second) to be a request for help. Instead, maintain (or restart) your network by reaching out to people regularly and without asking for anything.
Here are some creative ways to reach out:
Spread holiday cheer
Send holiday cards, and include some information about yourself to keep people updated. Remember to note information you receive in return (e.g., changes of address, changes of employment). Easter and Passover are coming, but you might even use the arrival of spring as a reason to reach out.
Announce a life change
You might announce a new baby, entry to a graduate degree program, a promotion, or just an email change. When you send out the news, include news about other areas of your life. For jobseekers recently laid off, this is where you let people know what has happened to you in a concise and upbeat way – again don’t immediately ask for help, though you could add the sectors you are targeting in case people want to reply with an offer to help. For jobseekers that have already announced they are looking, consider a follow-up contact letting people know where you are in your search.
Offer an interesting article
If you find an article that could be interesting to people in your network, email/ send a copy. This works well for professional contacts, who may not be on a familiar enough basis for a holiday card or personal announcement. An insightful article lets the contact know you are thinking of them and you understand what’s important in their industry.
Introduce a new contact
When you make introductions to other people in your network, not only do you expand the contacts of the person you introduce, but you also get an opportunity to catch up with your network. Like an interesting article, an interesting referral lets the contact know you are knowledgeable about their needs and willing to help.
Simply say hello
Sometimes a person just pops into your head. Maybe they resemble someone on TV. Maybe you heard a joke they would enjoy. Follow your instinct and call/ email to say hello. It’s always nice to know people are thinking of you.
Use these five methods, timed four to eight weeks apart, and you have almost a year of follow up. Now you have no excuse not to be maintaining your network.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
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