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July 8, 2014 at 1:00 AM

4 ways to nurture new networking leads

So, you’ve been networking lately, and you’ve collected a few dozen business cards. Congratulations — your work is just beginning. If that’s a surprise to you, it’s time to re-evaluate your networking follow-up strategy.

Meeting new people is essential, of course, but it’s only the start of your journey. To get to the doorstep of a new employment opportunity, you must play an active role in piquing their interest. Here are a few tips on beginning symbiotic and long-lasting networking relationships.

1. Be memorable. Like many people, I’m terrible with names. If it’s just a handshake and an introduction, I’m sure I’ll forget it within seconds. But if I know that the person was the one who just got back from an amazing trip to Iceland, or shares my love of film festivals, or used to work at my favorite magazine, that name and face will likely stay in my head. Strike up a conversation that includes more than just, “Nice to meet you.” Share some interesting facts about yourself that will stick in their minds.

2. Be selfless. Remember: It’s not about you. The last thing a fellow job seeker needs is another career climber looking for stepping stones. Prioritize your new contacts by whom you can help out the most with your expertise and networking connections. Offering referrals or free services to other people is an easy way to break the ice and get a response in kind. You may be surprised at the karmic payoff.

3. Reach out first. Don’t be the one waiting by the phone or checking your inbox for new messages. Within 48 hours at most, text or email your most interesting leads, saying how much you enjoyed talking with them. Be specific about how you met and what you talked about. If, at first, you get no response, don’t give up immediately — but don’t be a pest about it, either. I believe a “three strikes” rule of thumb is a good policy before moving on.

4. Have a plan of action. Many of these leads start with excitement but fizzle after the sharing of LinkedIn or Twitter information. Adding names to social media rosters is fine, but make sure there is another point of contact in mind. Suggest a casual meeting for coffee or lunch. Don’t just say “sometime soon”; pick a specific day or two to show you’re serious. After the first meeting, be sure to provide another reason to continue meeting to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: communication, networking, relationships

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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