Last month, a friend lost her job at the media house where she had worked for more than a decade. She was told the company was suffering losses because of the COVID-19 crisis that has dealt a crushing blow to the economy.
After the initial shock and anger, which was but natural, the friend started reaching out to her professional contacts. Luckily, she has been in regular touch with her network either directly or through her social media presence. For her, it may not be tough finding a job soon.
But for many others, who have been fired or furloughed during this pandemic, it could be a long road ahead—especially, if they haven’t invested time and effort in building relationships during the course of their career.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown how important it is to nurture and cultivate professional networks, a habit that should be practiced all through one’s career and not necessarily only during a crisis.
Harappa’s Expanding Networks course is exactly what professionals need during these tough times when lay-offs, furloughs, and job uncertainty have become a harsh reality.
Often, we tend to procrastinate when it comes to something as simple as calling up a recently-acquired connection. Or fail to meet an old professional contact because we convince ourselves that we are too busy, and the contact will not go anywhere. That’s a mistake we make and don’t even realize its repercussions.
Relationships, like plants, wither away if not taken care of and once you slip down from people’s radar, it’s tough to reclaim their attention again.
So, how does one build long-lasting relationships?
For starters, don’t ignore the contacts you have already made. Strengthen these relationships, many of which may go back a long time. Call up your contacts, go out for lunch or catch up for a drink. Even if you may not want anything from them, being in touch with them regularly will deepen your bond.
Remember, for long-lasting relationships, reciprocity is important. If you do a good deed for your contact—help out with some information or connect her to a potential investor—chances are high that she will reciprocate it, if not immediately.
Variety is the hallmark of a robust network. Meet people and form connections outside your field of expertise. You never know when and how you may leverage the relationship that you build. Also, in your network, you will have a strong bond with some people while others will be casual acquaintances. But both these relationships—strong and weak ties—are essential to building large networks. Don’t risk ignoring the weak ties; they can lead you to opportunities you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
Do a SWOT analysis of your network every three months. In other words, check your contacts for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Work on the weaknesses (for instance, contacts only from your area of specialization) and threats (strong ties turning into weak ties) while making the most of the strengths and opportunities (connecting strategic contacts with each other to strengthen your position in the network).
Keep your social media profiles updated. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, be active on these platforms so that your contacts are aware of your presence. On LinkedIn, particularly, your profile should be 100% complete. And remember, a large contact base doesn’t necessarily translate into a valuable network. So, make sure to grow your network with relevant connections.
Now that you have a fair idea of what to do, go ahead and call up your contact you have been meaning to for a long time. You never know what awaits you at the end of the call.
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Meenakshi Kumar is a consultant at Harappa Education. A former journalist, she is now discovering the world of good habits
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