People can smell a networking play a mile away. Here’s how to build meaningful connections over time and let them pay off in the long run.
Reach out when someone is down. When a coworker or work contact gets let go or demoted, get in touch with her right away, and continue to check in every few months. Tell her how much you miss her, and ask what you can do to help. These people will be back, and they’ll forever remember your kindness. That’s good karma that may turn into a professional opportunity.
Stay in touch with former colleagues. Keep on the radar of people you’ve worked with—bosses, cube-mates, etc. You can do this without being pushy by sending a nonintrusive “just touching base” e-mail or an “I thought you’d like this article” e-mail.
Say thank you often. People love getting credit—including for your successes. Scored a new job? Send a former boss or your internship supervisor an e-mail or note: “Thank you for helping me develop the skills that allowed me to get to this point.” A genuine thank you makes a powerful impression.
Help your coworkers and contacts. I call it following through on being a great person. Whenever you can, do a non-work-related favor for someone, like offering to chat with your boss’s kid about your alma mater as she decides where to apply to college or connecting people who have a career interest in common.
Have coffee with a competitor. Meet often with other people in your field, peers as well as managers and HR offices. As long as you’re not passing on proprietary info or gossip about your company or coworkers (major no-nos), meeting someone who works at a different company is not “cheating” on your employer. It makes you more valuable because you’re connecting with what’s fresh, buzzy, and relevant in your industry. Plus, the new contact will see how smart and amazing you are and think of you for future openings at her company.
Talk to strangers. Everyone you meet is a potential contact. The friend of a friend you meet at your cousin’s holiday party could have a great lead for you. Even if she’s on a different career path, she could introduce you to technology your company could use or give you an idea for solving a problem at work or even tell you about a job opening you’d never have heard about otherwise.
Be blunt. If you’re hitting up a contact for some job help, don’t dance around what you want out of the interaction. Be transparent. Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork and they’ll move the moon for you.