Written by Iris Kittleson, account executive for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Collecting business cards and shaking hands is a networking staple, but the real challenge to networking is building and maintaining connections long term. These five tips are good habits to practice in order to use your network to its full advantage.
1. Keep Track of Connections: Keeping track of all your connections can be hard, but creating a spreadsheet can help manage contact information. Use the spreadsheet to organize contact information, how you met and their specialties. LinkedIn is also a great tool for managing your connections.
2. Handwritten notes: While it may seem old-fashioned, sending handwritten notes, especially for holidays and birthdays, is personable and shows attention to detail. Handwritten cards won’t end up in junk mail and are a refreshing break from LinkedIn messages and emails.
3. Be Useful: Sending your contacts articles and links that align with their interests helps illustrate that you know both their specialties and the industry. Building relationships are about helping one another, so be sure to pass along any information or opportunities that you think can help your peers.
4. Be Social: Social media can be a very helpful when it comes to keeping in contact with your connections. Using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to follow and comment on the work of your peers shows that you are interested in their work. Tagging connections in relevant articles or actively participating in online group discussions showcases your utility and creativity.
5. Be Thoughtful: Try to send a message at least every six months to some of your contacts. Small gestures such as saying congrats on a new position or happy birthday on LinkedIn remind someone that you are a part of their network.