You ‘befriended’ your boss on Facebook, you set up a LinkedIn profile and you followed all the relevant people on Twitter. You knew it would only be a matter of time before your networking genius landed you your dream job in a leading company. Now, what do you do with all those contacts you made along the way?
Your contacts list could include people you used to work with, former bosses, business contacts you made on a job, your next-door neighbour, the brother of your best friend from primary school or randoms you met on the bus who work in your field.
Rather than throw away or forget about your little black book overflowing with names and numbers, maintaining your network of contacts could benefit your career down the track – so here’s how to do it.
Keeping an organised address book is essential. Store any business cards or contact details in an orderly fashion with any other useful information that may come in handy. Compile records of your last point of contact as well as any other personal information (in a non-stalkerish manner) such as family facts and likes and dislikes. Enquiring after little Brady’s cello practice or Bruiser the dog’s operation will show that you’ve paid attention and actually care. Even remembering that they like two sugars in their morning chai latte will prove that you are not simply using them for their influence, position and power. Be careful, it’s a fine line between caring and creepy.
It can be a little awkward getting in touch with a contact after years and years of silence. However, modern technology is helping to ease the gap with social media. Touching base every now and then through email, Facebook or LinkedIn can help you segue into asking them for a reference or a leg-up into the industry. This is where you can pull out your wealth of knowledge and impress them that you’ve remembered they have two sons, five grandchildren, a red Volvo and like singing Beyonce in the shower. Only kidding. They hate Beyonce.
When it comes to networking, there's are definitely rules of engagement and networking 'best practices'. Treat your more distant, professional contacts professionally, which can be difficult when dealing with social media. Refrain from sending them inane Facebook quizzes or invitations to your Twilight fan club. If you’re prone to enjoying a Big Night Out or two, make sure that you change your privacy settings to block them from seeing any photos documenting just how much fun you had.
If you’ve had a relationship with a contact in the past, like going to school together or sharing a corner in your first job, it doesn’t hurt to arrange a catch-up every now and then. Even if you only have coffee with them once or twice a year, your relationship will be much stronger for it.
If someone in your network cries out for help with their career, offer what you can. Do you know anyone who could help them out? Do you know of a job vacancy that they would be suited to? Even if all you can offer is to keep an eye out for possibilities and proof their resume, they will appreciate it. Remember that relationships are a two-way street and it may be you asking for career help one day.
If you’re planning on applying for a new job, get in contact with your referees before you start your job hunt to make sure they are still fine with recommending you for employment. They won’t enjoy having a phone call sprung on them without notice. And the last thing you want is your old boss getting confused between John ‘the slacker’ and you, John – the ‘model employee’.
As your mother taught you, good manners will never go out of style. Thanking your contacts for any help they may have given is extremely important to continue the relationship. Never take your network for granted. There’s no need to send a singing telegram, simply saying ‘thank you’ and informing them of the outcome of your job interview will suffice.