Put sometimes-awkward small talk, firm handshakes and business card handoffs together, and what do you get? Networking. But don’t let your networking efforts trail off when the initial chitchat does.
Networking relies on relationships—connecting with people, building those acquaintances and moving them past superficial meet-and-greet strangers to genuine, beneficial and lasting career connections. But you’re busy and sometimes following up with them slips your mind. And then the connection is too far gone, back to stranger status.
So we asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What is one way you can maximize the value of your network relationships when your time is limited?” Here are their tips:
1. Do quick check-ins.
Maintaining relationships you’ve cultivated is critical, and when you continue to develop new ones, it can be a challenge to make time for all of them. One tip is to make “reconnect” files on your calendar that recur on a monthly basis. These remind you to reach out in a way as small as a call or email to say hello, see how they’re doing, send a pertinent article or ask how you can help them.
—Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids
2. Organize your network connections into groups.
As you start meeting people in your field, you’ll notice that many of their interests overlap. Try introducing people with similar skillsets and interests. Not only will they appreciate you for helping them make a valuable connection, the introduction will also give you the chance to interact with both of them at once, cutting down on the time necessary to maintain separate relationships.
—Brian Honigman, BrianHonigman.com
3. Build communities.
Our company is heavily relationship-driven. As a way to maintain these relationships and drive as many internetwork connections as possible, we’ve started building communities of key groups in the form of meet-ups. It allows us to stay well-connected and top-of-mind with just a single event.
—Ross Beyeler, Growth Spark
4. Grab lunch.
Almost everyone eats every day, right? View this time as “time to socialize” with people in your network. It takes the pressure off, makes it feel like fun as opposed to work and builds meaningful relationships.
—Brennan White, Cortex
5. Create templates.
Reaching out to people and asking, “Hey, how are you doing? Anything I can do to help you out?” is easy and always appreciated. Just like your sales team, have a few standard templates pre-written for this, but still make sure to leave opportunities for a personal touch. Every day set aside nine minutes and reach out to three people. It’s very manageable.
—Adam Stillman, SparkReel
6. Prioritize thoughtfulness.
Everyone is “busy.” Many people in your network don’t have time to touch base every week—or every month for that matter—so invest in each opportunity. If you make each touch point meaningful, the quantity of communication isn’t as important. Make it personal, offer thoughtful help or introductions whenever possible, and demonstrate that you think of them as an individual, not just a resource.
—Shradha Agarwal, ContextMedia
7. Keep up short correspondence.
Do your best to keep up correspondence, even if it’s limited. I try to send emails to networking connections and clients when I come across an article I think they might find interesting. Even this kind of occasional communication can be beneficial down the line.
—Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind
8. Have fun.
Your interactions need to provide value to your audience, whether that’s exploring opportunities or providing a laugh. People undervalue the benefits of humor and candid, casual conversation. Just because your time is limited doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, quality interactions. Picking up the phone and adding some humor to the conversation can be refreshing.
—Jason Kulpa, Underground Elephant
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.