1. Congratulate Them. When a connection is promoted or changes professions, send a congratulatory note and inquire about the change. Use the opportunity to catch up on other matters and provide an update on your own status.
2. Provide Professional Leads. When you hear of something, let appropriate people in your network know. Think beyond jobs and referrals to everything from committees, board positions, speaking opportunities, writing assignments, and special projects. Offer to provide an introduction if you’re comfortable doing so.
3. Mail Something. Everything is electronic now, except when it’s not and then it stands out. To get someone’s attention, hand write a note and mail it them. Finished a good book or interesting magazine that you think a contact would love? Mail it to the person with a note expressing why you’re sending it.
4. Ask Their Opinion. Your contacts are in your network for a reason, so remember to take advantage of their knowledge and experience. While taking care not to contact people too much, reach out when you have a need and you know your contact will be able to assist. Inquire about other matters during the exchange and thank your contact for helping out.
5. Meet in Person. Remember to meet local contacts for beverages or lunch periodically. For remote connections, this may not be possible, but if you travel, try and meet on the occasions when you’re both in the same city.
6. Send Links but Personalize. See a link that one of your contacts might appreciate? Send it but explain why the link made you think of your contact and how you thought it would be useful. Remember not to send too many links to the same person.
7. Introductions. Chances are, many of your connections could help each other out if only they were connected. When you feel an introduction would be beneficial and both parties have agreed, introduce two of your connections to each other.
8. Check In. Don’t have an explicit reason to reach out to a connection? Send a short note to check in and inquire about professional developments. Provide a brief update about yourself and thank the person for being part of your professional network.
9. Re-Introduce Yourself. The truth is we connect with so many people on networks like LinkedIn that for some people we can’t remember why or when we connected. Perform periodic network housekeeping and reach out to these contacts, conceding that losing touch is sometimes inevitable, but that you’re interested in what’s new with them.
10. Let Them Breathe. Wine connoisseurs like Miles from “Sideways” will tell you that letting wine breathe will bring out its true aromas and flavors. This is due to aeration and the warming of wine from the surrounding air. Professional networks, like wine, also need time and air to flourish. Take care to nurture your network and give the people in it the space and room they need to breathe.
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