From our last two blogs in the Building A Network Series, you now know how to establish a professional network and you recognize the value of a network. You’ve also learned how to strategically grow your network by establishing new mutually beneficial relationships. It doesn’t stop there! You also have to build trust, maintain that network and let the connections grow over time.
We went to Maureen McKinnon, executive coach and career promotion expert to get more insight on how to maintain, deepen and grow your professional network in a strategic and organic way where both parties benefit. Read on to find out more.
Connecting With Your Network
Once you have made the initial connection, you’ll need to maintain, deepen and grow the relationship by keeping in touch, reaching out and connecting in an organic way. In order to do this, Maureen has developed a strategic system called The Keep In Touch System.
Determine the Frequency
First in the Keep In Touch System is to determine how often you want to connect: monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. We recommend connecting to your network more than once a year. When you’ve decided on the frequency, schedule that into your calendar to remind yourself to connect with your contacts.
This is a skill and a habit you need to develop. You’ll also need to balance the frequency of connecting between established connections and new contacts you meet. It’s also a good idea to continually update your list to identify new strategic relationships.
Create a Tracking System
Next in the Keep In Touch System is to track who you connect with in a tracking system. You’ll want to track when you connect, what is new with them and take notes of conversations. As you connect with them more, you’ll want to remember what you’ve learned about them.
For tracking systems, use whatever works for you that keeps your network top of mind. Some examples of tracking systems are excel spreadsheets, Trello and pen/paper index cards.
Determine How You Want to Connect
Lastly, in the Keep In Touch System is to figure out how you want to connect with the person and start reaching out. You want to build trust with that person and grow the connection. There are many ways to connect and keep in touch. Here are a few examples:
- Invite them to a virtual event or a networking event
- Invite them for coffee, lunch, brunch, drinks or a sports event
- Comment, share and like their Linkedin Posts
- Send a postcard or card in the mail
An example of a great way to connect is by one of Maureen’s favourite business connections – an architectural firm in Vancouver. They send out postcards with photos of several projects on the front and with this message on the back: “It’s been way too long since we connected. Let’s connect, pick one: Coffee, Lunch or Dinner.”
Get To Know Your Connections
When you’re connecting with your network, keep in mind that you want to learn more about them and how you can support their business or career. Ask them some questions to initiate the conversation and remember to be interested and stay curious about them. Here are some example questions:
- How long have you been doing your role/job?
- What do you like most about your job or company?
Maintaining and connecting with your network takes strategy, time and effort. A successful professional network builds your social capital and opens up opportunities for both parties – it can help you get that job promotion and also help the other person in their career. When you connect with the person, be creative, be curious and have fun. You never know how much fun you’ll have when you meet new people. Plus you may even develop a friendship or two from your network. Leaving you with a quote for inspiration….
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” -Zig Ziglar
If you want further support, ideas or inspiration on how maintain and connect with your network strategically, book your free Career Strategy Session with Maureen!