Professional Networking: 3 Steps to Revive Dormant Contacts
By Michele Richardson
When it comes to professional networking, there is a common piece of advice that is often shared: build it before you need it. Unfortunately, many people neglect their network; only remembering it exists when there is an urgent need like finding a new job. When that happens you may be left scrambling to reconnect with distant contacts and hoping they remember you.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to access your professional network, but haven’t been in recent touch, here are three steps to revive those connections:
Prepare your strategy. You just received word that your company is downsizing, and you’ll be out of a job in a matter of weeks. You may be tempted to blast a generic, “I’m looking for a job,” message to everyone you know. But if you haven’t been in regular contact with your professional network that approach can alienate the very people who could help. Instead, spend time thinking about your professional goals and the approach you’ll take to reach them.
- Where do you see your career going next?
- Who might be in the best position to help you get there?
- What can you offer that person in exchange for their help?
Think people, not commodity. Remember, your professional network is comprised of people, often very busy people who are focused on their own goals and priorities. Don’t make the mistake of being a transactional networker – someone who only reaches out to others when there is an urgent need. Become a relational networker who understands the value of continually reaching out to others, connecting and providing value. Even if you’re in a crunch to find a job, realize that you need to cultivate relationships rather than attempt to cash in on them, and that takes time. If you act prematurely, you may find that you’re relationally bankrupt and damage the connection.
Make contact. Once you’ve developed your strategy and have the proper mindset, it’s time to reach out to your connections. Carefully prepare and customize your approach for each contact, avoiding the mistake of asking for a job referral or recommendation the first time you reach out. For example, if you want to reconnect with a former supervisor who might give you a recommendation, try using LinkedIn to make initial contact. Customize your message, “Hi John, I know it’s been awhile since we’ve been in touch. I hope you’re well. I’d to add you to my LinkedIn network and hopefully share new insights about the IT industry since I left Widget, Inc.,” and then develop the relationship from there. For other contacts, it may be more appropriate to make a phone call or schedule a coffee meeting. Only you can determine that based on your prior interactions, so be sure to thoughtfully consider your approach.
One final piece of advice: don’t beat yourself up for letting your professional network go cold. It happens to a lot of people and following the steps above will help you bring your network back to life. Just consider this an opportunity to become an even better networker.
You can learn more about the Power of Networking in CTU’s new e-book: download it now.
A seasoned HR/organization development professional turned copywriter in 2005, Michele Richardson specializes in content strategy and writing for the digital world. When she’s not working or writing, you can find her curled up with a book and cup of Americano or training for her next half-marathon. Catch up with her on Google+ or Twitter.
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