In 2021, networking has become more important than ever. Remote work, travel restrictions, online university. The pandemic has challenged our social relationships, so we have to find new and meaningful ways to stay in touch with our contacts! In consequence, networking i.e. the establishment and maintenance of professional as well as personal contacts and relationships with people who share a common interest is vital!
Networking is a very old craft. It used to be done in conference rooms and on the golf course, at dinner parties and in the theatre. But with the rise of social media and the growing popularity of professional networking sites such as Linkedin and Xing, networking has become a constant opportunity!
Remember the days when the coolest person in school was the one with the most Facebook friends? Well, much has changed since then. The most influential people are not the ones with the biggest network, but the ones with the most meaningful network and well established networking skills!
It’s all about Quality vs. Quantity….
You can find many useful articles about professional networking sites online, including this one on why the number of contacts in your network doesn’t necessarily matter.
If you don’t see the benefits of networking by now, check out this article in the Harvard Business Review on why you should learn to love networking! However, it’s not just about having a network, it’s more about the ways in which you maintain it. Staying in touch with your personal and professional contacts is key. Otherwise, they will become just like your 631st Facebook friend you never really talk to.
Good networking is not just about maintenance, it’s about meaningful contributions and adding value to a conversation that others can benefit from. Networking is about establishing meaningful personal and professional connections. Of course you won’t be able to keep in close contact with every single person. However, you can easily grow relationships that already exist; often those contacts will turn into your strongest professional ties.
So here are five meaningful ways that can help you stay in touch with your network:
1. Comment on Social Networks
Writing a valuable comment or just writing an endorsement of something one of your contacts has posted online takes effort. By writing a longer piece of text, you show that you care to make the effort because you value the person whose post you are commenting on. Similarly, you can endorse a friend or colleague by further sharing their content within your own network.
2. Congratulate on Birthdays
Simple, but meaningful. Birthdays are a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship with someone. Take the time to write a short private message on social media or via text message to congratulate and send well wishes. Even though someone might not make much out of their birthday, they will still appreciate you thinking of them on that day.
3. Email on Special Occasions
Christmas, New Year’s Eve and other special occasions provide good opportunities to strengthen network ties all year round. So start compiling a Christmas letter, in which you share some personal and professional highlights from you past year! You can then send your “newsletter” to the people in your network whose email address you have. Of course this is a bit more personal and you should carefully select the recipients.
4. Call to Have Longer Conversations
Another more personal way of staying in touch. By now, calling to have longer conversations is almost old school. This is kind of sad, but it’s also a good opportunity for you to show that you make an effort! Call friends and other people you are close with to discuss current issues, interesting articles or other shared interests. People are more likely to remember a good conversation compared to one of the quadrillion text messages they receive a day.
5. Write Postcards
By nature, this suggestion only applies to close contacts whose personal address you have. This is mostly friends and family. However, don’t underestimate this network! Usually those are your strongest ties. So take the time to write a postcard or Christmas card! It is something personal and a good way to express your appreciation for someone.
These five tips are great ways to stay in meaningful contact with your network. Yes, they may require you to put in a bit more effort than what goes into the average text message. However, the impact of these little gestures is much bigger! They are focused on quality rather than on quantity of contact.
Of course, these suggestions are not tailored to cater to all the people within your network. Just select which tip works best for you and your contacts . You don’t have to use them all and you don’t have to include your whole network at once.
Now you might feel the pressure to start putting more effort into building your professional network because you seem to be lacking behind. This is normal, but before you hurry off, you should read this blog post about role models and social networking sites to calm your nerves!
How do you stay in touch with your network? Do you have more to add to the list? Let us know in the comments or on social media!
See you soon,