As with any relationship, and networking is all about relationships, one has to nurture the connection for it to grow and be fruitful. This takes time, communication, and intentional efforts. So how does one nurture a networking relationship from a distance?
Communication: Any solid relationship is founded on good communication between entities. Business relationships, friendships, marriage – all parties will point to communication as one of the core building blocks for a strong relationship. When one is at a distance, this aspect becomes more crucial – anyone who has ever been in a long-distance dating relationship can attest to the importance of communication.
To build your networking relationship, I recommend sending an update email/communication periodically. In this brief communication, update your contact as to where you have applied, or, upcoming interviews, or, people you have spoken/will speak with, or your follow-up efforts on any advice the contact gave and you have completed. The communication should be brief – 15 seconds to read – and should demonstrate your efforts.
I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me over the phone last Friday. Since our conversation, I took your advice and registered for the Dallas Sports Marketing Career Forum next month and have continued my outreach to professionals in the city. This Thursday I have a phone call with Ann Jensen of Dallas Sports Properties. Just wanted to share my progress and offer my willingness to help if I can be of assistance to you.
Sending an update email/communication is important to do as it will demonstrate that you value the relationship and that you are working hard on your end to achieve your goals.
Timing: How often one should send a communication will vary. Those who are in an exploratory phase may only follow-up a few times during the year. Professionals actively engaged in a search should follow-up every 2-3 weeks whereas those who are in the final rounds of the interview process may want to update their progress a bit more frequently.
It is important to send the follow-up communications in a timely manner to prevent the contact from forgetting about you. Today is April 16th, be honest, do you remember whom you spoke with on the phone 2 weeks ago? A month ago? Most likely the answer is no. You need to touch base with your contacts periodically in order for them to remember you.
Tone: Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person always has to get his/her way? Any friends who dominate a conversation? How about a buddy who always seems to be asking you for something? You probably dread receiving their emails or calls. Follow-up communications can ask for additional help/phone call requests, but be sure that all your communications are not ‘need-centered’. If you get in the habit of … here is my update, do you have more ideas/contacts/job leads … your contacts will eventually leave you as you will drain the energy from them. Do not make ‘ask’ communications too often – I find it much more powerful when I develop a relationship to the point where the other person OFFERS to assist.
I hope my postings about networking from a distance have been helpful, I know it is not easy (have done it myself) but it is better than applying online and hoping for nn interview. I would welcome hearing from those who have successfully built long-distance networking relationships and their advice on the how-to’s.