Following are strategies you can use to forge and maintain valuable business connections:
Make a habit of networking. For your networking efforts to work, you need to view them as an ongoing process, not an activity you engage in only when you need career advice or job leads. A professional network should be an ongoing, two-way exchange of contacts, experience and ideas. While building a thriving matrix of contacts requires a sustained effort, it’s well worth it. Careers can take unexpected turns and jobs can be lost for any number of reasons — especially in a down economy. Putting in the time to network now will help you avoid scrambling to cultivate key connections later.
Cast a wide net. Develop a deep and diverse roster of contacts by using a multifaceted approach. Interact internally to raise your profile and develop allies throughout your organization — not just your department. Establish external connections by joining professional associations and attending industry conferences, seminars and training sessions. In addition, connect with employers, recruiters and fellow professionals by exploring a variety of online networking sites. LinkedIn, Facebook, Ryze, Xing and Ecademy are just a few options.
Remember the golden rule. Treat other networkers as you would prefer to be treated. The more help you’re willing to offer members of your professional exchange, the more likely they are to reciprocate when you need assistance. For instance, respond quickly if a contact asks you to serve as a reference or requests information about an open position at your company. When you’re unable to answer a question, make every effort to put the person in contact with someone who can.
Say thanks. Manners still matter. Always offer gratitude to business contacts who have gone out of their way to do you a favor. Promptly expressing your appreciation by making a phone call or sending a heartfelt thank-you note will go a long way toward maintaining good relations. As writer Gladys Bronwyn Stern once noted: “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
For more advice on management and career issues, listen to The Management Minute, Robert Half’s podcast series at www.rhi.com/podcast.
Accountemps is the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices nationwide and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.