Management Tip: Maintain Your Professional Network Over Time

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Everyone knows it’s important to build a network. But once you’ve made a connection with someone, how do you maintain it over the long haul so that you can call the person when you need a job reference or a professional favor? The first step is to determine whom you want to stay in touch with based on their professional value and relevance to your career. Look for current and potential clients, influential colleagues, and friends who are superb connectors. Then figure out how often to be in touch. Some experts suggest having 10 people you’re in regular contact with, 50 you reach out to every quarter, and another 100 you’re in touch with once per year. When you do reach out, find ways to show that you’re interested in their lives. Ask how you can be helpful to them. Every six months or so, regroup and make sure you’re in touch with the right people. It’s natural for your list of professional ties to change as your career progresses.

Adapted from “How to Maintain Your Professional Network Over the Years,” by Rebecca Knight

 

Case-in-Point: Use Your Networking Skills to Create Your Personal Mastermind Group

Pawan Sharma, Regional Cluster Head (N&E) at Disney India, says he owes a lot to his business network, because he truly learns from the people in it. “Networking to me is connecting with not just thought leaders and peers from the same industry as mine, but allied industries too, as it broadens my horizon,” he says. This has helped him grow not just professionally, but also personally.

When Pawan started out he saw two options in front of him: to add people to his network to make him look well connected, or to believe in the bigger goal of learning as much as possible from a diverse group of helpful mentors. He chose the latter.

Pawan created what he calls his personal mastermind group: a collection of people he looks up to, whose insights add value to his professional life. These aren’t just one-way relationships. Pawan stays in touch by regularly sharing relevant articles, links to industry events, and case studies. And he doesn’t shy away from giving advice when someone else needs it.

He chooses people to add to his network based on three broad questions:

  1. Will I be able to learn something new from this person?
  2. Will this person be able to learn something from me?
  3. Do this person’s skillsets contribute towards my learning goals?

Pawan tries to meet at least one person from his mastermind group every month over lunch or coffee. Because of these interactions, he has more confidently handled some big professional decisions in his life. The last time he needed help, he reached out to each member in his mastermind group to weigh the pros and cons of a job opportunity. They suggested he stay at his current company, because he still seemed committed to the work and stood to gain a lot from his role there. He took their advice, and he’s glad he did.

 

 


As told to Vasundhara Sawhney, Senior Editor, HBR Ascend


 

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