Believe your contacts. Poet Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This can be said of networking as well. When people say, “let’s stay in touch” you should believe them. Don’t waste time trying to second-guess their intentions. Even if the person was “just being nice” you can trust that they will continue to be nice when you reach out.
Confirm your intention. Grab the bull by the horns and tell your contact exactly how you will follow up: “That sounds great. I’ll reach out to you in a few days/weeks/months.”
Ask how they want to be reached. Find out how they prefer to be contacted: by phone calls, emails, texts? You may also want to ask before you reach out on social media. Some people connect on Facebook with everyone they pass in the grocery store, while others only want to connect on LinkedIn. Find out first and prevent an embarrassing situation.
Offer value, information or resources. Try to share something of value with your contacts. Can you send a link to an interesting article? Is there information about a mutual interest that you can share? You may just want to thank them for their insight during your previous conversation and tell them how you are using the information they gave to you. That’s valuable too.
Be direct and ask for help. Sometimes the thought of “reaching out” makes you feel uncomfortable. When that happens, remember step one: believe they want you to contact them and then do it. If you need help, be direct. Update them on what you’re doing, then ask for feedback. Can they recommend another person to connect with or give you their thoughts on an idea you are considering? You’ll feel most confident if you plan what to say in advance.
Networking is about building relationships. You can’t have a relationship if you don’t spend some time “relating.” No matter where you are in your career, staying in touch with your contacts is a prescription for success.
Share your tips! What makes it easy for you to follow up with your contacts?