How to build your network: keeping in touch long-term

In the last blog post I wrote about following up from your first meeting with a new contact. Building a professional network is a long-term endeavour. Emailing once after you meet someone new at a conference isn’t enough. You have to keep in touch in order to maintain your network.

Keeping in touch in the long term is about striking a balance and contacting someone enough to stay on their radar but not so much that you annoy them! In my experience, if you are hoping to stay in touch with a contact who is more senior than you, you should aim to drop them an email once per year or every one and a half years.

Below is an example of how you might follow up with a contact one year after you met:

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1: Stick with the formal greeting unless you have had an explicit signal to take a more informal approach. If your contact signs off their email with their first name, use their first name as your greeting for your next email.

2: Remind your contact where you met. Busy people want to remember who you are, but they have so much happening it isn’t always possible to keep up with all of their contacts. Help your contact out by reminding them who you are and where you met. If you have had semi-regular contact for a while this isn’t necessary.

3/4: Say why you are getting in touch again. Keep tabs on your contacts so that you can get in touch when something interesting happens in their professional life. New publications, job changes and speaking engagements at big conferences are all good excuses to say hi. You should also let them know when big things happen to you! After all, they want you to succeed.

4: If you want them to respond with something specific, ask. The example above may get a response or it may not because of the way I phrased it. “I would be grateful for your comments” or a similar request is vague enough that it can be politely ignored if the recipient is too busy. However, if you need something specific, now is the time to be direct. More on that in another post!

5: If you don’t get responses, don’t despair. As you can see, I replied to my own email to continue the email thread with my new contact, which means I didn’t get a response to my initial email. That’s ok! It doesn’t mean that your email didn’t make an impact. It just means that your contact didn’t have the time or a particular reason to respond. Getting in touch is still important for staying on your contact’s radar. When you do need something specific they are more likely to remember you and respond.

 

Networking is a long game. You might not see results straight away but you will in the future. Keep at it!

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