Building a network from scratch is hard work, but you don’t have to start over. If there is one lesson you’ve learned from your job search, it’s that you should have done a better job keeping in touch with your past colleagues. Just follow these suggestions to maintain your connections so they will be there the next time you need them:
1. Recognize the Value of Your Network
In order to feel motivated to stay in touch, you have to understand the “why” of networking. Wouldn’t it be great to hear about a job while employed? This is always the best-case scenario, and it will only happen if your contacts remember you and what your expertise is.
2. Schedule Time
There’s the old saying: “That which gets scheduled gets done.” It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are busy mastering your new job. Cut yourself some slack those first few months, but get right back to networking. Put time on your schedule every month to reach out to your contacts or attend a professional association meeting.
3. Develop a System for Keeping In Touch
If you develop a system for your outreach, it will be much easier to maintain. Perhaps start with the people you met while job searching, and make a point to call them or meet with them for coffee. Share your gratitude and updates on how your new job is going. LinkedIn makes it easy to stay in touch as well.
4. Never Lose Touch with Recruiters
If you developed a working relationship with a recruiter or two, definitely make sure to thank them for the work they did during your search. Let the recruiter know you have landed a new job, but don’t take your name off the list. Tell the recruiter you would still like to be contacted if there is an opening that fits your background. If nothing else, you may know of people who would be a good fit for the job if you aren’t, and recruiters appreciate referrals.
5. Give Back
You now have greater empathy for those who are hunting for a new job. Remember how difficult your search was? There were days you were down and days you were up. Offer to help current job seekers by sharing your experience and lessons learned.
6. Be an Inside Advocate
Whether you do it for the money or the intrinsic value, take time to share openings in your company with your contacts. Remember: You don’t always have to know the person you are referring well. It is alright to say you don’t know his or her work firsthand and that you are just facilitating an introduction.
7. Join a Professional Association
One of the lessons you may have learned during your search was that you need to stay up to date on trends in your occupation and industry. Joining a professional association may not have been in your budget while searching for a job. Now that you are employed, see if your employer will pick up your membership either in full or in part.
8. Choose Mentors for the Next Phase of Your Career
A relationship with a mentor provides you with firsthand feedback and knowledge to refine your career. This mentor could be someone from your new company or from outside of your organization. Both have pros and cons, so you could choose one of each. The advantage to having more than one mentor is that you don’t feel like you are asking for too much from either one. One mentor may be able to help you navigate internal policies and politics. The other may be more helpful in helping you plot your career course.
9. Keep Your Bucket List of People To Meet Full
Staying in touch with people you know is important. But there are still people you would like to get to know. Now that you have a job, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to someone and introducing yourself. And don’t forget to think about the key decision makers in your new company. Setting up a meeting with these key stakeholders could make a big difference in the support you get down the road. Always remember to state why meeting them is valuable to you and what you may be able to offer in return.
10. Don’t Wait Until the Next Crisis
You’ve learned how time-consuming it is to build your network. When you have existing relationships, it feels much easier to ask for help, advice or information. This is why it is so important to continue to nurture and grow your network for long-term career success.