Networking is the most valuable tool in professional development.
According to Forbes, 118 people apply for a single job—118 individuals who take the time to fill out an application, list their skills, and jot down their experience.
So, what makes the hired applicant special? What gives them an advantage over the others?
Is it their skill? Their experience or education? Probably not. More likely, there is a connection between the “chosen one” and the hiring manager. Whether directly, through another employee, a family member, etc., the recruiter will pick someone with credibility through a connection over someone they only see through a resume and interview.
Obviously, it is important to network. It is almost necessary for professionals to reach out to mentors, go to socializing events, and message other professionals on social media. But after forming a relationship, how can you keep these connections relevant?
Plan a good old-fashioned coffee date.
A classic way to keep up with old connections is to meet up with them. Contact the connection and ask to go grab a cup of coffee, go on a walk, or find a shared interest that could be turned into an event.
Keep the event low-key. The most important part of the date is to catch up. Ensure there is enough time and good surroundings to have an informative conversation that doesn’t feel boring.
Tip: Pick a public environment like a cafe or park. This will give you a good talking point if the conversation becomes awkward.
Don’t be scared to prepare some mental talking points. Don’t scare your connection off by writing your points down on paper but keep an idea of what you want to touch on ready in case the conversation goes quiet.
Digital Corps Senior Strategist for User Experience, Stuart Sipahigil, has years of experience in the workforce and has stayed connected with many of his colleagues and mentors throughout the years.
Digital Corps Senior Strategist for User Experience Stuart Sipahigil
“At a job I had years ago, I worked with a group of people and we were very close. We have kept in contact through a group chat. We try to plan out a big get together, like a dinner, once a year to catch up with each other.”
Become a social media strategist.
Nowadays, it can seem as though half of the professional world lives on the internet. Love it or hate it, to keep connections you must play the social media game.
Having a presence on LinkedIn, Instagram, X, or Facebook can be the difference of a connection remembering you or not. Post the highlight reel of your life and show what you are up to. You want your connections to know and remember who you are, so start showing up on their social media feeds.
Tip: Become consistent and purposeful with your posting. Don’t go for long periods of time without posting or posting irrelevant content, this can cause you to get lost in algorithms!
Send a seasonal greeting.
It can be hard to plan a catch-up date with your connections. Life happens and schedules get busy, but it is important to consistently reach out to them. The last thing you want to do is solely reach out to your professional relationships when you need something from them. Humans want to know they are cared for and are wanted more than just when they are “needed” or considered beneficial.
One easy way to reach out to many connections all at once is to send seasonal greetings. During the holiday season, send a kind message wishing them warm wishes and a happy new year. Send a thoughtful message on their birthday, or when they have a monumental moment in their life, send them a congratulatory text or letter.
Tip: If you have the address of your connection, send them a handwritten note/card filled with good wishes. This will be more memorable as the written card has become less popular.
Be sure to not send a message based on a religious holiday they do not celebrate. This can be harmful and offensive and may have the opposite effect on your relationship.
Take these steps and become a networking professional.
Having relationships with people in your field will give you access to unimaginable opportunities. Real-world connections objectively beat out many other assets you may bring to the table. Creating and keeping professional relationships will bring a new level of professionalism to your skillset and give you an advantage over the competition.
Taking these steps and using the tips laid out for you, you will be on your way to becoming socially well-rounded and having healthier connections to take advantage of.