I received an email today from someone that reached out to me a couple of months ago as a networking contact in his job search. His email was to let me know he had just accepted a new job offer, he told me about the job and the company, and thanked me for the connection we made several weeks ago. I really don't think I was much help to him because I'm not very familiar with his field and industry and I wasn't able to provide any direct referrals. I only gave him some ideas of where he may be able to find some additional contacts. His note was very gracious and I was glad to get the update.
What was most striking to me about the note, however, is that it made me realize how few of them I get.
I help lead a job networking group and teach an 8-week class on effective job search strategies. I get a number of calls and emails from people looking for help and referrals in their search, and I'm glad to help as much as I can. I always tell people to keep me posted and stay in touch, and I often hear back from them while they are still in the search and looking for more help. It's quite rare, however, for me to hear from them after they land in a new job.
While it's understandable that they get caught up in planning to start the new position and the 'need' for networking doesn't seem pressing any longer, they forget a couple of key points...
· Jobs don't last forever. It may be a nice thought that this job will be the last one you will ever have to look for, the reality is that the average job these days lasts for less than 5 years, and that length drops all the time. You will likely need to look for a job again, multiple times in your career, and having a warm and receptive network makes each job search easier. In order to keep the network warm, keep in mind that...
· No one likes being called on only when they're needed. When someone hears nothing from you except for when you're looking for more referrals, it diminishes their willingness to provide more help. A worthwhile network benefits both parties and is characterized by common courtesy.
Nurturing a network is the same as nurturing friendships...and ideally networking contacts become friends.
· Let them know when you land and thank them again. It sets you apart from most others that don't do the same, and it's another chance to build a long-term relationship.
· Connect periodically, just to connect. An email, a note, or a phone call just to connect, without a request, goes a long way to form a bond. Wish them a Happy Birthday if you know when their birthday is. Congratulate them when you hear news of a promotion or some other recognition they may have gotten. Simply thank them again for the consideration they've given in the past and let them know you'd love a chance to help them some way as well. Wish them well for an upcoming holiday. These are all ways you can reach out, even if it's once every few months or once per year. The goodwill that will be formed and the bond for the future will prove invaluable.
· Give before you get. If you can find some way to be of help to them before you need more help, makes for an even stronger relationship. Networking, ideally, is a mutually beneficial relationship. Be proactive in becoming a valuable contact for them.
The next job search becomes so much easier when you have a warm network to begin with. No matter how little help someone may have been to you, acknowledge their consideration, keep them posted on your progress, and thank them for their time. The long-term benefits will be invaluable. Don't drop the ball after you land.