While we often envision networking as shaking hands and introducing ourselves to a series of people we’ll never see again, staying in touch is what matters.
Sometimes, we neglect to stay in touch even when it’s easy. We don’t bother sending an occasional email to a friend who moved, a former boss or coworker we had intended to stay in touch with. Luckily, there is seldom an expiry date on relationships. If you catch yourself wishing you had stayed in touch, contact the person. Saying that you were thinking of them and realized that too much time had passed since you last spoke can be enough to renew the conversation.
But what if it’s a capital-N Networking situation? Don’t shake hands and dash after meeting someone of interest. Let them know you enjoyed talking with them and that you’d like to stay in touch. If there’s something specific you’d like to stay in touch about, all the better. Go ahead and ask if they’re on whatever platforms you like to use. And don’t feel pressured to stay in touch with them all the time. The networking advice of years past, to regularly send articles of potential interest to new contacts, came about before email became the enormous workplace time suck that it is.
So, what if the person you want to stay in touch with is someone really impressive? Luckily, really impressive people are human, too, and I’ve been surprised in my own networking efforts that sometimes the people at the top of their game were the easiest to get time with. (That said, everyone, no matter how full their CV, will appreciate that you respect their time, so keep emails concise, prepare good questions for informational interviews, be clear about what you’re hoping for, and give people graceful ways to decline requests.)
You’ve bothered to read to the end of this blog, so, while you’re at it, you might as well fire off a quick email to that former boss you really respected, your mom’s friend who always had great advice, the person whose research intersects with yours, or the friend of a friend who works for an organization you’re interested in. Let them know you’re thinking of them. If you have a request, state it clearly without beating around the bush. And if you don’t have a request, just let them know how you’re doing. They might be wishing they’d stayed in touch with you.