Maintaining existing relationships is as important as building new ones. It is easy to prioritize exciting new contacts made within your target industries or organizations over long-term relationships that have always been there. However, the contacts that will help you the most, especially during an executive job search, are those that you nurture and maintain.
The work you do to keep up with connections should be as targeted and focused as when you created the contacts in the first place – spending time staying in touch with someone whom you do not have a meaningful connection with or you do not have similar professional interests or experiences as may not be the best use of time for either of you, especially for executives with hectic schedules. Some may find networking and connecting with people is second nature – I would not even attempt to slow you down! – but remind you to make sure you stay in touch with people to convert those connections into relationships. For those of you who may need extra guidance, here are our six best tips:
1. Keep an eye on social media updates: LinkedIn offers updates on your home screen and update emails. Follow both carefully and engage with your contacts by congratulating career changes or promotions, or commenting on posts they make that interest you. Private messaging is more likely to spur a meaningful conversation, than a comment on a status update, so try those as well for a longer conversation. This applies to any news you hear via other channels, including your contacts, industry news, and other social networks.
2. Rise to the top of your contacts' notifications: Share reports and articles that may be of interest to other executives to encourage contacts to engage with you. Share reports, comments and articles, either publicly using status updates, through press releases accredited with your name (for top executive roles or product launches) or even better, through a personalized message that is specific to their interest.
3. Set aside time to go really talk your contacts: Connect with those that you have not talked to recently, offering information as outlined above, or simply to ask how they are getting on. This can be time consuming across your entire network, but goes a long way with people who you have a close connection to or have fallen out of touch with. For those that are located close to you and share your career goals and interests, offer to go for a coffee. Sifting through your network regularly will soon build momentum and leave no important contact (or friend) behind – perhaps set a recurring monthly or bi-monthly reminder in your calendar.
4. Pick up the phone: Contacts made over the internet or at a networking event can be strengthened by following up with phone calls rather than another strictly online messaging. Before you call, remember exactly what brought you together in the first place, and what you would like to achieve in future and build on those– it will help to steer your conversation if there are immediate goals such as collaborations or if conducting an executive job search.
5. Stay organized: You can easily make in excess of 200+ business connections a year - through your executive position, in-person networking, online business networking etc. Make sure you devise a technique to keep these contacts organized, and if possible, categorized. Organization needs to go beyond contact management. Save personal details on people, manage your time effectively, regularly organize catch-up time with people, and use travel to reconnect with international or long-distance contacts.
6. Be personal AND focused: We all need to find a balance between being focused on our goals and engaging on a personal level. For example, with a connection you make, take interest in the next place they are traveling and always ask for updates by simply asking, how was everything in [location]? Every time you learn from the answer (economic realities, business developments, travel ideas), and develop a personal dialogue which can easily tie into business issues and goals.
Conclusion - The advantages to having an active network
Not only can contacts help you learn business trends and collaborate on new ideas, when you begin your next executive job search, your network should be your first port of call for executive job opportunities. By following the points above, you should be able to quickly search through your contact list for those in your industry or function, and develop a list of leads. If you have solid relationships with your network, every executive in your list will know at least one person who will enrich you executive job search – a quick search through a connections contact list on LinkedIn will re-affirm this. In summary, keeping an active network will allow you to help others and others to help you.