When you are in job-search mode, you become acutely aware of the fact that you need to start networking and making new connections as quickly as possible. You also become aware of the fact that your old network is valuable, but if you have not cultivated your old network you may feel something akin to panic. Dr. Ivan Misner of BNI (Business Network International) says “Networking is more about ‘farming’ than it is about ‘hunting.’ It’s about cultivating relationships.” So whether you are in job-search mode or not, cultivating your network of connections should always be a priority.
What if you haven’t been cultivating relationships with your old network of contacts and connections, however? How do you reconnect with members of your old network without coming across as disingenuous or overly needy? After all, people don’t like feeling that they are being used. They would like to think you value them for who they are, not for what they might be able to do for you.
Here are 5 suggestions for how to go about reconnecting with people from your old network:
1) Social media.
A great way for you to reconnect with members of your old network. LinkedIn is especially conducive to finding old work colleagues that you haven’t seen for a long time and simply reconnecting. Don’t assume, however, that everyone will be thrilled to hear from you out of the blue, especially if it has been a few decades since you last worked together. You may need to remind them of how you know each other, and you should not ask for anything other than to connect at first. The value of a connection anywhere, whether it is through LinkedIn or somewhere else, is that the people with whom you are connected are in a position to share their network of contacts with you. You are dealing with a potential gold mine, but you will blow it if you are presumptuous or if you don’t take care to approach people with respect for their personal and professional boundaries.
2) Association meetings, conferences, and professional conventions.
These are great places to go and reconnect with old colleagues and other people from your industry. Social media is great, but there is no replacement for meeting people face to face. Your presence at such a meeting indicates your interest in staying up to date with the trends in your industry or profession and puts you in place to meet with old colleagues and connections as well as to make new friends and connections. If there is a conference or convention coming up, plan to attend. Consider the cost of attendance as an investment in your professional future and a place to network, network, network.
3) Set up informational meetings or make coffee dates so you can catch up with people from your past.
When you are working full time, keeping up with people through coffee dates or just a quick meeting may feel like a burdensome intrusion on your day. In terms of keeping your network healthy and strong, however, there is no better way to do that than to be intentional about keeping up with people from your work past. Talk about personal things, too, like family and hobbies as well as what is going on at work. Be interested in them as a person rather than as someone who might do something for you
4) Don’t forget that you have something to offer. Networking is a two-way street.
Many job seekers who are intentionally networking using these various methods and tools may forget that they have a lot to offer, too. Be generous with your own network, and don’t forget that you may be able to help someone else as much as you feel like you need their help.
5) Don’t neglect the follow-up.
Once you have reconnected, don’t forget that farming metaphor from Dr. Misner. Every relationship requires continued care and nurturing. If you truly care about building your network and keeping it strong, you cannot consider your meetings or new connections as “one and done” affairs. Follow up if only through social media by staying in touch through LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. You can stay top of mind by liking someone’s articles or posts, commenting on their status, sharing their articles or sending them links to articles of interest that they might find useful.
Just as you wouldn’t plant a garden and then leave it to chance to grow, you should consider that once you have created a connection that it will never flourish with no action on your part. Following up and staying connected is critical. Otherwise, you will always be in the position of feeling like you are falling behind in your networking efforts instead of feeling that you have a thriving and vibrant network that is full of possibilities.
Networking can feel challenging… especially for those who identify with the Introvert personality type. Networking events are often viewed through the lens of dread as opposed to anticipation. It doesn’t have to feel that way, however. Approach it as one who has much to offer and may be seen by your connections as a valuable asset to their network. Go to events prepared to listen more than to talk, and be generous in what you share and provide. You will soon build a reputation as a great asset and a wonderful contact to have.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.
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