Five Ways to Nurture Your Network

I take pride in the network of colleagues and business associates I’ve amassed over the past 20 years.  With social networking, it’s easier than ever before  to keep up with the activities, accomplishments and tribulations of the people you’ve worked with.  However, it’s also easy to forget that networking is not just about accumulating and growing names and contacts, it’s also about nurturing these contacts so that when you need to lean on these individuals (and we are talking about people here!) for help, guidance or direction, you don’t have to reintroduce yourself.

Five ways I nurture my network are:

1) Provide regular updates on my status:  Using LinkedIn, it’s easy for folks in your network to stay abreast of job changes, promotions, etc., but don’t forget the more proactive channels as well.  Send an email, use your blog, call some folks and leave a voice mail with exciting news about your activities.

2) Respond to announcements:  When you find out that a member of your network changed jobs, lost a job, got promoted, etc., acknowledge it with a call, comment or other message.  A simple “Congrats on your new job!  Best of luck,”  is an effective reminder that you care about them and they will, in turn, most likely return the favor when you’re in the same position.

3) Acknowledge all interactions: Attention recruiters!  This one is for you.  When you ask me for help in referring a member of my network for a job opportunity, and I take the time to do so, please respond and let me know you received it.  Moreover, if I email you back and express personal interest, please acknowledge that, too.  A simple, “Thanks.  I’ll keep you posted will often suffice.”  Doing this encourages me to want to help you again.  I recently received an update from a recruiter to whom I referred a member of my network.  That person didn’t get the job, but the recruiter made sure to call me to tell me that.  I really appreciated the follow up.  I will go out of my way to help him again.

4) Don’t over communicate:  Although I always appreciate updates from members of my network, there are a few that over-communicate.  I don’t know exactly where to draw the line, but if I receive more than 1 update per day from an individual (company updates aside), I might not pay as close attention to all of it.

5) If you want to add me to your network, tell me where I know you from:  We all get invitations from strangers on Linkedin who want to connect.  I’m OK with that.  All I ask is that you tell me where you know me from.  Even the loosest connection works for me, but don’t make me have to dig to find out why you want to connect.  Tip:  Don’t use the default LinkedIn “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message.  Instead, use that space to remind me what we have in common.

Other thoughts?

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