In one of our first post in this series, we talked about the importance of developing a professional network full of remarkable people. It’s been 20 days since then, which makes this a great time to follow up with contacts you’ve met recently — or even reconnect with ones you made years ago.
Professional relationships can be harder to keep alive than personal relationships — you may not see these people for weeks or months at a time, so staying relevant is a challenge. On the other hand, since your relationship is strictly a professional one, you aren’t saddled with the emotional pressure that comes with personal relationships, so it’s easier to be yourself.
Today, I want you to reach out to a professional contact and reconnect with them.
Ways to reconnect
One of the easiest ways to reconnect with a personal contact is to send a simple email. Mention that you were thinking about them, ask a question about a project they were working on, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them with their current projects. If you want to open up to a broader conversation, you might end your email with a request for a Skype or Google Hangouts session or phone call.
A phone call, or even a handwritten note can serve the same purpose. Some entrepreneurs I know of send out birthday or Christmas cards to their professional contacts. The trick to this sort of message is to make sure it’s genuine and heartfelt — you want to send this person a note that is a genuine communication from you, not some formulaic spam that you blast out to all of your contacts.
Although it limits you to local contacts, asking someone to meet up for coffee or lunch is a great way to build a relationship. Depending on the contact, this can either be something where you each pay your own way, or you can offer to pick up the tab yourself, if you have the room in your budget.
If you’re like me and have a lot more online contacts than local contacts, you can couple these in-person meetings with travel. If you’re heading somewhere that passes through an area close to where one of your contacts lives, give them an early heads-up and see if you can set up a meeting.
I did this a while back — on a trip back from Illinois, I stopped in Nashville, TN to have lunch with a writer I’d met online. I was passing through Nashville anyway on my way home, so the trip only took me a few miles out of my way, and it was an opportunity to develop an online relationship into something more substantial. I was later able to develop that relationship into an editing gig for a poetry book.
Plan follow-ups in advance
Since professional contacts tend to people you interact with only infrequently, it’s easy to forget about them. A forgotten relationship is one that doesn’t bring any value to you or to your associate. Instead, take a proactive approach to follow-ups.
Recently, I’ve been taking steps to actively cultivate my professional network. When I meet someone, I add their contact details and some notes about where and how we met to Evernote, and any other details I know about them. If I have one available, I add their picture, too, so I can put a face to the name. I glance through these contacts about once a week or so.
After I have an interaction with one of these people, I set a reminder to myself to follow up with them in two or three weeks. If I haven’t from them since our last meeting, those reminders are a way to encourage myself to reach out and make contact again. Then I make some new notes, and rinse and repeat. This is especially helpful for contacts that I may not see again for months — when we reconnect again, I can glance over my notes and refresh myself with everything I know about this person.
Don’t try to get something out of every meeting
Try not to come into these meetings with an ulterior motive or agenda. No one wants to have coffee with a friend who always asks for a favor every time they get together. Instead, focus on your contact — what are they working on? What are they trying to achieve? Be a good listener, and engage yourself with their aspirations.
People are always more interested in those who are interested in them.
Some contacts are more valuable than others
Obviously, some contacts are going to be more integral to your goals than others. If you’re trying to land a job with a prestigious firm, then a contact who actively works with that firm is going to be far more valuable than someone you met at a conference six months ago.
If one of your contacts is more valuable in this way, prioritize them in your follow-ups. Make extra effort to set up meetings with them (without being pushy about it), and ask them to introduce you to other people they think you should meet. At the same time, don’t neglect the rest of your network just to focus on one person — you may be missing valuable opportunities.
Tomorrow: Forgive Yourself For Financial Mistakes
Over the next two days, we’ll be covering two of the most important aspects of a strong financial life: forgiving your mistakes, and celebrating your victories. Everyone screws up now and then. It’s important to not let those mistakes discourage you. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about forgiving yourself.
Is there someone you need to follow-up with soon?
How actively do you try to develop your professional network? Do you have any tips or tricks to share about following up with contacts? Tell us in the comments!