How often do you speak with, or get together with, a friend? How about an old colleague? A previous boss? A recruiter with whom you've worked?
Chances are the answer to each successive question above is a smaller number.
As with our personal lives, it’s equally as important to keep in touch with professional contacts on a regular basis.
With friends, this usually comes naturally. You call or get together regularly to catch up, share personal goings-on, ask for advice, celebrate a birthday, etc. Those with whom you don’t keep in regular contact are often the ones from whom you’ll drift apart. After some time without any contact, it becomes harder to “pick up where you left off” and remain close.
The same holds true for professional relationships. However, more often than not we don’t nurture our professional relationships as much as our personal ones. As a result, when the time comes that you need some career assistance, you may find yourself with limited resources. As with our friendships, if you don’t keep those lines of communication open, it’s a lot harder to ask for help down the road.
Usually, when people are in the position of looking for a new job or finding the next contract, the first thing they think to do is reach out to their professional network — an old colleague, a previous boss, maybe a recruiter with whom they’ve worked. But how eager will that person be to help out if it’s been years since they’ve had any contact with you? Will they even remember you? Will you even get a return call? If you’ve not had any contact with them in the last year or two, the answer to all of these questions is probably no.
Having said that, it’s critical to come up with a touch plan to keep in contact with your professional network on a regular basis. It might be as simple as a quick phone call or email to say hello, sending a relevant industry article, passing along a referral, sharing an update on company news, etc. Mark it on your calendar as a quarterly activity. Take an hour every couple of months to reach out to work-related contacts. The people to whom you would think to reach out if you found yourself in need of help should be the same people with whom you keep the lines of communication open.
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