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7 Ways To Maintain Your Professional Network Without Annoying Your Contacts

Source | FastCompany : By RACHEL GRUMMAN BENDER

Ever notice how moving forward in your career comes down to networking? Eighty percent of job openings are never publicly advertised, according to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article. That makes all those business cards you’ve collected and LinkedIn connections you’ve made extremely important.

The tricky part, however, is keeping in touch with your network of former colleagues and clients in a genuine way, so you don’t come off as self-serving or stalker-like.

Part of it means maintaining some level of regular contact, so you’re never in a position where it’s been years since you’ve connected, and suddenly, in the middle of a job hunt, you have to send a sheepish “Remember me?” email.

The rest is all about reaching out in an appropriate way depending on your relationship with your contact, so you strengthen your connections and can tap them for help when you need it. Let these tips show you how to walk the line between authentic and opportunistic.

1. REACH OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Finally, a legit reason to spend time on Facebook and LinkedIn during the workday: These and other social media sites allow you to get your name in front of old and new connections in an unobtrusive way.

As you scroll through your feed, keep an eye out for profile updates or posts from your connections that announce a promotion, new company direction, or a career milestone. Craft a very short post congratulating them on their achievement, along the lines of, “So excited for you” or “Way to go!” At a loss for words? Just hit the “like” button.

Cheering on your contacts on social media lets them know you stand behind them,” says Dorie Clark, marketing strategy consultant and author of Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms. Yet you’re not asking them for anything in return and there’s no expectation of a reply. They see your name, and that puts you on their radar. You’ll also be noticed by their own contacts, and that recognition can pay off down the road.

2. SCHEDULE REGULAR CHECK-INS

For closer contacts, like a former mentor or key client you’ve worked with many times, don’t wait for them to post something online; some people just don’t participate in social media that way. Instead, take the initiative by sending them a regular email or message, say, every 60 days or once per quarter, suggests Clark.

The note doesn’t have to be anything more than, “How’s it going?” or an “I saw this article and thought of you” message with a link to an industry publication. The goal is to check in and get your name on their screen in a friendly, casual way.

And though it sounds a little impersonal, make it even easier to check in by using an app like Contactually or Refer.com. Both track your contacts and prompt you to reach out based on time intervals you set. Refer.com even drafts the actual text of the message for you, based on the relationship level you have with that person, so you don’t waste time searching for the right words.

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