Remember that networking is a two-way street

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2012 - 3:48 PM

QAfter I got my last job, I lost touch with many people in my network. Now that I'm looking again, I'd like to revive these connections. What should I do?

AHealthy networks require ongoing attention, and restoring yours will require a focus on ways you can help others.

The inner game

It's not uncommon that people use their networks when they need them and let them lapse until they need them again. However, this violates the spirit of networking, which is based on mutual exchange and mutual benefit. Take some time to think about whether this reflects your general way of being; if so, this could be a good wake-up call to start giving as much as (or more than) you take.

Also consider other reasons you may have dropped your relationship-building activities. If you feel that you've been too busy, you'll want to focus on ways to manage your time and have an efficient plan to keep this moving forward. You may tend to be introverted, and find the interactions to be draining. These are also factors to build into your networking plans so that they are sustainable. Identify these reasons so that you can prevent them from being barriers.

Now, focusing on reactivating some of your connections, look back on the support you've been given and the ways you've helped these individuals. Think deeply about meaningful ways that you can reconnect with them so that your actions reflect their needs and not just yours.

The outer game

It'll be helpful to have a plan to move forward and keep yourself on track. The first key element is listing the people you want to reach out to. If you don't still have contact info, use LinkedIn, Facebook and contact with mutual acquaintances to find them.

Then plan your first contact, reintroducing yourself if necessary. Sending on a piece of information of mutual interest can be a powerful way to re-establish contact. For example, if you'd had conversations on leadership in the past, send a link to a good article or a book title that you'd recently read as "something that you thought they'd be interested in."

You'll need to take responsibility for letting time go by without contact; consider an apologetic "where does the time go?" message. Let them know if you have an urgent need, for example, if there's a job posted in their company and you're looking for information. Or, just mention that you're back on the market. If there is other specific assistance that you'd like, ask -- people generally like to help others.

Have a concrete plan to incorporate this into your workday. Set a goal of people you'll contact each week, and track your success. Be responsive when people reply, and even if you don't hear back, plan to be in touch again over the course of time.

Be sure to show your appreciation for anything others do to help you, and extend the favor when others reach out to you. That's the best way to build an enduring network.

The last word

You can recover from letting your network lapse with ongoing and sincere attention to others.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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