Whether you’ve been to a big event, been introduced to someone through a common connection, or directly sought out someone, you’ve received a contact… or 20. However, this is only the tip of the networking iceberg. Even after they’ve accepted you on LinkedIn, you’ve just started the process.
Maintaining your network is a very active task, and just like a garden, you have to cultivate your contacts for your network to thrive. Contacts in your network need communication, just like plants need water. This doesn’t mean spamming people constantly, but you need to be purposeful. Look for reasons to connect (and LinkedIn can give you a lot of good reminders). If their company has issued a press release for a new development in which you are interested, reach out to either congratulate them, or to find out more. If they have recently had a promotion or job change, reach out to congratulate them. Is there an opportunity in which you think they would be interested, or something you both enjoy? Then send that information their way. These all represent active and direct ways to cultivate your network.
The other great way that you can maintain your network is by generating content. If your company has a release, then create a post about that to your network. Is your company hiring? Put out a post for some great opportunities. Are you interested in learning more about some industry trends? You can create a poll. Read an interesting C&EN or ACS Industry Matters piece? Share the article to start a conversation online.
Still struggling to find ways to work through this? Go for the simple things. You might get notified of a work anniversary or a connection duration, so congratulate them or at least ‘like’ the event. Even if all you’ve got is a birthday reminder, that’s a great start.
The thing you should do the least in your networking activity will be to ask for an opportunity. You don’t want to come off as always asking for something from others. However, when the time comes to ask for an opportunity, people are more likely to help you out if they are actively engaged with you as part of your network.
These are a few great things you can do to maintain your network. However, remember that there are some things to avoid as well. Professional networking sites are not your strictly ‘social’ platforms. We don’t need to see your food pictures (unless food science is your field), and we also don’t need to have rants or blabber. A great way to get pruned from someone’s network is to have a feed full of unprofessional stuff. Keep it classy and lay off the networking junk food!
So, are you ready to tend the garden of your network? Then get the gloves on and start cultivating.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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