How many times a week do you think “I haven’t talked to so-and-so in awhile, I should give them a call”?
More importantly, how many times do you follow through on that impulse?
If you’re like me, most of those well-intentioned musings probably get crowded out by more urgent priorities. We wish people well and we want to be in touch more often, but things happen and we find ourselves focused on the next big project at work or the next email we receive from a colleague.
Unfortunately, letting our network relationships fall by the wayside means we often miss out on new opportunities – a coffee catch-up with an old boss or colleague can lead to new connections and your next big career break.
A few weeks ago, I reached out to a VP of Finance who I first met about 10 years earlier. We’d kept in touch through the years, but we hadn’t touched base at all in about twelve months.
In early fall, I decided to reach out and see if he wanted to catch up. He responded immediately and suggested that we meet the following week. As it turned out, he needed an interim person to cover an employee’s maternity leave and was also considering hiring a controller.
“You never know when a simple note to see how someone is doing will lead to a great new job or professional connection.”
Now, I wasn’t reaching out to find new business. This person and I have been friendly for years and I enjoy catching up. But the timing was serendipitous, and it was great to hear that there might be opportunities to work with each other.
That’s the power of keeping up with your contacts. Relationships matter, and people prefer to work with other people they know and trust. You never know when a simple note to see how someone is doing will lead to a great new job or professional connection.
Timing Is Everything
When you let relationships lapse, chances are your contacts will end up finding other people to fill their needs.
There have been times when I learned that a contact or previous client just made a new hire. When we see each other, they’ll tell me they meant to reach out but got busy, and there was a candidate who was put in front of them so they went with that person.
I don’t take that personally, but it’s a great reminder that staying in touch with people keeps you top of mind.
We take our client relationships seriously, and we want to be there for them throughout their business’s growth, but we need to take the initiative and remind them that we’re here to support them, not the other way around.
Nurture Relationships, Not Leads
Checking in with your contacts often shows that you’re interested in how they’re doing regardless of whether they’re hiring or might be able to help you. Offering to recommend them to a company or referring a great contact to them are great ways to nurture your network without demanding value in return.
Keeping up with your contacts isn’t just about personal gain. The best relationships are genuine and mutually beneficial.
I don’t check in with my contacts to pitch them for business. I schedule coffee dates and give people a call because I am curious about how they’re doing and want to maintain those relationships.
“Careers – and lives – are built around relationships. The effort you put into connecting with people will yield incredible results both personally and professionally.”
If it turns out they need BVOH’s services, I’m thrilled to be able to support their business in that way. But my priority is staying in touch with people I respect and admire and adding value to their lives and careers.
3 Simple Tips for Keeping Up With Your Network
As your career progresses, you’ll attract greater numbers of people to your network. Naturally, it becomes more challenging to keep up with them all.
Having a system in place for staying in touch with people can help you maintain your relationships without it turning into another full-time job. Here’s how to make that happen:
1. Set goals.
Saying, “I should really be better about keeping up with people” is unlikely to yield results. If you want to maintain your network, put it on your calendar. Set aside 15 minutes a week exclusively for messaging three contacts and scheduling catch-ups over coffee or happy hour.
Once it’s a habit, managing your network will feel less daunting. You’ll also enjoy the benefit of improved relationships and more fulfilling interactions.
2. Keep track of people by location.
Keeping tabs on where people live and work can really help with staying in touch. If I’m heading to a particular neighborhood or part of the Bay Area for a meeting, I give thought to my contacts in that area and reach out to set up a time to meet. That way, I can look up people I haven’t seen in awhile.
Face-to-face catch-ups are always the most enriching, so I make a point of connecting with people in their neck of the woods whenever I can.
3. Avoid email tennis.
Be specific when you ask contacts out for coffee or drinks. Don’t just say “Hey, let’s get together.”
Also, no one enjoys email tennis, and it’s irritating to have a 15-message thread just to sort out your schedules. Offer a few potential dates and times to make it easier for them to plan.
When you’re busy with work and personal priorities, keeping up with your network can be challenging. But it’s always worth it because careers – and lives – are built around relationships. The effort you put into connecting with people will yield incredible results both personally and professionally.