Dear Life Matters,

Throughout my career I have focused on building a strong network. As a result, I have a number of professionals in my Rolodex in addition to online connections like Facebook and LinkedIn. Reaching out and meeting people is not my issue, but I struggle with how to stay in touch with someone after our initial meeting. I want to make sure that my connections with someone are meaningful and try not to be that guy who only reaches out when he needs something. Any thoughts on how I can stay in touch without pestering?

Signed,

Staying in Touch

Dear Staying in Touch,

Building your network is only half the battle. In order to really make the most of the connections you make, it is important that you spend energy and time maintaining that network. As you note these connections should be meaningful and provide value to the other person. Maintaining your network goes beyond connecting at times when you need something and instead should focus on continuing and strengthening your relationships through purposeful interactions.

Maintaining your network begins with being organized and strategic in your outreach. Start by reviewing and organizing your list of contacts. Consider creating a spreadsheet to merge together contacts listed on the print business cards you have collected over time with those included as part of your LinkedIn and Facebook social networks. For business cards you collected long ago, consider looking up that contact online to retrieve their latest contact information and position. Include separate columns for name, title, company, contact information, and date and reason for last contact. Add in a column for special notes and details gathered from your prior interactions like hobbies, birthday, hometown, name of spouse or children and other relevant details. By documenting interesting facts about each person and organizing your outreach you are setting the foundation for successful and meaningful outreach.

Focus on finding quick and natural ways to connect. For instance, if you read an interesting article that you know someone else will enjoy, send it to them. Simply sharing a link to a great article and adding in a quick personal note can be a great way to stay in touch without dedicating too much of your time. Commit yourself to doing this on a regular basis and you’ll start to find that others begin reaching out with similar resources that might be beneficial to you and your business.

Avoid just saying you’ll get together, commit to actually making it happen. We all know the common phrase “let’s grab lunch sometime.” It can easily be thrown in to end a quick conversation, but when you follow through on your actions you’ll strengthen your connection with your contacts. You do not have to have an immediate need or reason to get together; sometimes the simple opportunity to catch up can be a great way to grow a relationship beyond just business needs to knowing more about a particular person. The more you know the further and deeper your connection with that individual will be.

Getting together does not need to be overly complicated either. Consider events that you are already planning to attend like a gallery opening or wine tasting and invite acquaintances to meet you there. Inviting a variety of people can be a great way to catch up with a number of people at once while strengthening your network by interconnecting your contacts. Similarly, if you meet someone and you know they would benefit by connecting with another one of your contacts, take the time to introduce them. A simple e-mail introducing each individual and the reason they would each benefit from the connection can be completed in less than five minutes but can have lasting results. By serving as a connector and introducing contacts to one another you’ve shown the value you can offer. Maintaining your network does take work, but applying simple strategies to make your everyday actions an opportunity to strengthen your relationships can lead to great results.

KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!

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