Understanding the value of networking and taking the first important steps towards establishing and growing your pool of professional contacts within the IT word is crucial, but what comes next? What do you do after you’ve just attended a successful networking event or made a key new contact that you hope to foster a professional relationship with?
In this final installment in our three-part series on networking in the IT industry, we’ll tackle how to leverage your network to maximize it’s potential value after you’ve made first contact.
1) Always follow-up
Anytime you network with new people in your industry at an event, convention, or social gathering, it’s always worth taking the time to follow-up with them a short while afterwards. Exchanging business cards at event is a good way to determine the best way to follow-up with a new contact. Whether it’s a friendly email or a polite phone call, take the time to drop them a line a week or two later and stay in touch at regular intervals. Keep your correspondence friendly and professional, and let people know you valued your interaction with them.
2) Connect with your network online
Once you meet new contacts in-person, connecting with them over social media is another great way to stay on their radar and interact beyond your initial meeting. LinkedIn is a perfect place to start, given its professional focus and resume-centric format. If your connection is less formal and more friendly, other sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can be useful for this too.
3) Offer help without expecting something in return
The law of reciprocity is a powerful thing. Being helpful and offering something of value to key individuals in your network you’re building relationships with, whether it’s useful information or shared contacts, is a smart move. Give without expecting anything in return. Show that you’re a valuable resource, and your contacts will remember what you did for them. They’ll also be more willing to return the favor down the road.
4) Ask for a reference or gig leads
You probably wouldn’t want to bug someone for help if you’ve just met them, but it’s a different story when you’ve already spent lots of time establishing a working relationship with a contact. If you’re in-between gigs and are in the middle of a job hunt or could use a hand in some other professional capacity, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people in the industry you’ve fostered strong relationships with. You might be surprised at their generosity and willingness to lend a hand.