The good news is that you're probably on Facebook and most definitely on LinkedIn. The bad news is that you haven't reached out to your network in a while. Now really, what's the point in having a network if you rarely connect with the people in it?
The worst thing to do is to reach out to your network only when you need something. It's much better to stay in contact year round. You know it's important to keep up with everyone; the issue is how do you make time for it?
1. Google Alerts -- One of the easiest ways to stay in touch is to have an email that automatically shows up in your in-box, prompting you to reach out. Google Alerts allow you to enter the names of people or companies so that when there's anything newsworthy, you'll know right away. That's the perfect opportunity to email someone in your network congratulating them on a promotion or on their company's good news. Gotta love Google!
2. Leverage Those Conferences! -- How many times have you attended a conference and bumped into someone you know? Assuming it was someone important to you, wouldn't you have rather known ahead of time? Prior to your next event, send out an email to your network letting them know the conference you're attending and the dates you'll be there. This way, you can make arrangements beforehand to spend time with them while you're both there. Doing this can also serve another purpose -- letting them know about a conference they may not have known about and would like to attend.
3. Be a Conduit -- You probably come across all kinds of people who could be a resource for you and people in your network. By letting your network know about a new person/resource, you're helping the new person and people in your network. The extra benefit of this one is that people will often reciprocate, advising you when they come into contact with a good resource.
4. Spread the Word -- Let your network know when good things are happening: you get a new job; you've launched a new product; personal news like buying a house, having a new child. You can also share information that might be of particular interest to them. This could be industry specific or hobby specific. People really appreciate you thinking enough of them to share news about you or specific information that might be of interest to them.
5. "Face Time" -- Nothing beats getting together in person. Whether it's lunch, drinks after work or a cup of coffee, meeting in person strengthens the bond. Things come up in a face-to-face meeting that would never come up over the phone and even less likely in an email. There's something about physical presence that sparks more meaningful conversation around multiple topics. It's also more fun to get together with someone you share things in common with. After all, they're in your network for a reason.
No matter how busy you are, any time you dedicate to energizing your network will be well worth it. Remember the old adage "It's not what you know, but who you know and how well you know them." You've worked hard to establish your network so keep up with them!
Fred & Gladys
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success