Every month on our site, Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc., will answer your career and leadership questions. Please send your question to email@example.com and it may be answered in an upcoming column. This month, Jerri Barrett, VP of Marketing, Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, is our guest columnist.
Question: Everyone always talks about how important networking is. I’ve made an effort to meet a lot of people, now what do I do?
Jerri answers: Many people find themselves returning from a conference with a stack of business cards in hand and no idea what to do next. There are a number of ways you can make the most of the connections you make and how to stay in touch with those you have added to your network. Just follow these simple steps:
1. The first time you meet someone and receive their card take a few moments to jot on the card the nature of your connection. Also, identify one unique thing that you share in common with this person. For example, at the Grace Hopper Celebration you meet a professor who is doing research in an area you are interested in. Note that information and after the conference send her an email, reminding her where you met and asking a question about what interests you.
2. If you make a professional connection make sure to send a LinkedIn invitation, again reminding her where you met.
3. If you have made a personal connection feel free to connect with someone on social media: follow them on Pinterest and Twitter and friend them on Facebook.
Once you have created the connection you need to work to maintain the connection.
1. Take advantage of the update functions available through social media. LinkedIn sends updates about changes in your connections work status. If someone has received a promotion send them a congratulatory message. If someone has lost their position be sure to reach out and offer assistance. Offer to review their resume or make an introduction. The last thing you want to do is ignore someone who has lost their job. You never know, you may end up working for them.
2. Add people you work with to your Instant Messenger at work. Over time it will be another connection. Reach out and chat occasionally with people you used to work with. It’s a great way to get up to date on other connections and feel free to ask them a question, even if it is related to your current work.
3. Send birthday greetings. Facebook reminds you of all your friends birthdays each day. Post a birthday greeting on their message board. It will make them feel closer to you, and little gestures count.
4. We are coming up on the Holiday season, now is the time to plan how you are going to connect with people. You can post a general Holiday greeting as a status but it is also worth the time to sit down and send personal notes. An e-card is fine and it is worth taking the time to do this. By touching base with everyone at least once or twice a year you keep your network alive and vital.
Never underestimate the value of face to face connections.
1. Business travel is a great way to connect with people in your network. If you are going to be traveling to a distant city where you have connections and will have the time – send them a note and ask for them to join you for a meal. It doesn’t take much time and it is a great way to deepen your connections to people.
2. Take the opportunity to attend events where members of your network gather. If you are going to a professional meeting ask people to join you for a meal before the event or for drinks afterwards. Being an organizer and facilitating other people’s networking positions you as a leader and connector.
3. Don’t neglect your local network. Spending time with people doesn’t always require a meal. As your connections deepen you will find common areas of interest. Invite people to accompany you to concerts, events like speakers or book signings or even schedule time to just take a walk together.
Always remember, your network is a living breathing thing and requires care and feeding.