We often think of networking in terms of meeting new people and prospects. Professional networking groups tend to focus on creating new connections and building bridges between businesses, individuals and professions where none existed. But, keeping in touch with former co-workers, bosses and clients is just as important (if not more so) as making new connections and building networking circles.
The old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” can very well apply to former business and professional relationships. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some suggestions for keeping relationships alive and established networks in tact:
Start by making sure you acquire and keep contact information for co-workers and colleagues prior to leaving a job or company. You may think that the phone number and individuals you’ve worked with are burned into your memory, but you’d be surprised how quickly things can be forgotten. You may choose to keep an old fashioned rolodex or keep information in your email program in the address book or contact section (just make sure you take it with you when you leave a job or situation)-but keep track of people and keep things up to date so your connections remain in tact.
Look for ways to include past co-workers and colleagues in current events-open houses, meet & greets, conferences, and workshops are all great excuses to touch base with former co-workers. Sending along information that is professionally pertinent (including articles, periodicals, websites, etc.) can also keep the lines of communication open. The goal is to maintain and grow a sphere of influence, so keeping people “in the loop” from your many past lives is key.
Make time one or two days a month (depending on how big your rolodex is) to just look over the names and contacts you have and see who and how you can make connections. You certainly won’t want to pester people on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis-but the retro-term of “working the rolodex” is still a productive and viable way to keep connections alive. Consider sending an email or setting up coffee dates or lunches with people and relationships you want to maintain.
Consider sending a card or written note. Now I’m not talking marketing materials and postcards with your business information printed on them. I’m talking about personal written notes and cards (if you’re someone who can keep track of birthdays, that’s the perfect time to send along a little card) with a real human, yet appropriate, element to them. When you’re looking over your contacts on that one day a month-see who you can send off a personal card to-you’ll be amazed how something so simple and genuine creates a lasting impression.
Networking and keeping connections alive takes some focus and dedication. It doesn’t have to consume your schedule, but maintaining relationships with former co-workers and colleagues is definitely a productive professional effort.