How to Keep Your Contacts and Make Them Work

By Beth Jackson, reprinted from www.CareerBank.com

Networking is a matter of maintaining relationships with people who can assist you in your future professional objectives. These people could be bosses, coworkers, subordinates, competitors or golfing buddies. The following is a short list of tips to assist in launching and maintaining a viable professional network.

  1. Make a conscious decision of whom you want to keep in contact with for your network. A large list of contacts can be a burden to maintain. Choose quality over quantity. Don't feel the need to network with people who can't assist in furthering your career.
  2. Don't rely solely on circumstance to keep you in touch with your contacts. Many times you will lose touch with contacts if you do not follow-up with them by actively maintaining your relationship. Drop them an email or give them a call to keep them in the loop.
  3. Remember that every contact you make can be important. It may be difficult to determine how someone you meet today will be able to help you in the future - so don't try. A quality contact is a quality contact regardless of what they can do for you now. Add this person to your network and see what the future holds.
  4. Use your network to help people other than yourself. As you develop your network, you will determine circumstances where you can help someone other than yourself by engaging one of your contacts. Do not hesitate to do so. Such actions will speak well for you and strengthen your own network.
  5. Remember that the relationships you establish with your contacts do not have to be friendships. Networking is not the practice of being friends with everyone you meet. Most of the networking relationships you establish should be based on a mutual interest between yourself and the contact. However, if a friendship blossoms, you've gained more than you expected.
  6. Don't delay, start today. If you have not taken the time to create your network or organize your contacts, do so now. Remember that every moment you lose, a potential new contact could be slipping through your fingers.
  7. Use tools to maintain your network. Successful networkers do not rely only on their charisma and ability to remember names. With the use of email and a simple database no one should ever become disconnected from your network.
  8. Be upfront and honest when engaging a member of your network. When asking one of your contacts for assistance, be sincere and straightforward. Don't feel the need to disguise your objectives.

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