The days of in-person cocktail parties, lunches, coffees, or association gatherings are distant memories. While it may be a while before we again break bread with clients or colleagues, you can still nurture your network virtually.
Some people are reluctant to stay in touch, concerned that they may hear some bad news, creating an ackward moment for someone. You won’t know if you don’t ask. And the longer you wait to reach out, the harder it will become.
Don’t assume everything is status quo or that people are working in the same jobs as they were six months ago. If you’re uncomfortable contacting someone directly, check in with a mutual contact to diplomatically ask about the person.
In the same vein, don’t assume that social media profiles are up to date. One of my colleagues recently saw a LinkedIn profile of a former colleague who had left her company a year and a half ago, but still listed his current position as the officer level one that he had left.
In most cases, people will be thrilled that you reached out and eager to reconnect with a familiar person from the not-so-distant past.
Ask how you can be a resource. This is a subtly different question than “how can I help” and shows that you value the relationship and want to continue being valuable, no strings attached.
This question can also possibly lead to a conversation that provides you with new or useful information that you can pass along to someone else.
The key is offering, not asking. When you offer to be of service, people see you differently than as someone who is perceived as a taker. Be consistent with that image, and you’ll be seen as a reliable person who people can count on.
Your network is part of your intellectual property. Nurturing it makes it more valuable and serves all parties in mutually beneficial ways. Most of your previous in-person favorite networking activities can adapted for the phone, video calls or even by email.