7 Tips for Nurturing Professional Relationships

Who you know has always been important in the job search. It can open doors to interviews for you (sometimes before the job posts). It can mean more clients and referrals. The benefits are many but the time investment is large in establishing and nurturing professional relationships, or is it? Successfully nurturing a professional relationship is about how you make the other person feel. With the advent of social media and following these tips, networking has never been easier.

Know Your Network

network of people


Know what is important to your network on an individual basis. Through social media and a contact database you can keep track of important aspects of your network's lives. Make notes when you discuss something personal with them like children's/spouse's name, birthday, trips, etc. Take time to briefly skim what's going on in your contact's social streams. Then, make notes in your database.

Reach Out

If you've kept good notes, like suggested above, you'll never be at a loss for discussion topics with members of your network. If you know you'll be seeing them, brush up on details of their lives you have kept in your database (or memory) before your meeting. The fact that you remembered the name of their border collie will make them feel like you were really listening to them. However, avoid the temptation to fit everything you know about them in the conversation. That's not endearing, it's creepy.


Make It About Them

If you've connected with them through social media, see what's really important to them. Make it a point to comment on or like something they are sharing. The appropriateness of the frequency depends on how established your relationship is. If they have a blog, read it and comment on a post. Share it with your network or compliment them on social media. They will see your efforts and appreciate them. 


Be Helpful

If you were discussing something with a contact and you run across content or a job opportunity that would be helpful to him/her, make it a point to share it. There are multiple ways to do this and choosing the right way depends on your relationship and what information you have for them. Consider sharing it over email or a private message through social media (take caution in a public posting or tweet as the topic your contact was discussing with you might not be public knowledge). You could even send an old-fashioned, hand-written letter to them. This sort of contact is not nearly as quick as email but it makes an impression.


Make Referrals 

As your network continues to grow, find ways to connect your contacts. Make referrals and introductions. Most people are looking to add to their professional networks. Introducing your contacts not only broadens their networks but it gives you an opportunity to flatter and brag about their abilities. An introduction like "Mark, I want you to meet Celeste, the most amazing caterer in the city. Her cream puffs should be illegal," is bound to be remembered and appreciated.

Not only have you introduced Mark to a potential solution for his company Christmas party food needs, you've just made Celeste feel amazing. After all, people don't remember what you do. They remember how you make them feel. 


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Ask for Opinions

Everybody has an opinion and most people are willing to share theirs when asked. If you have a contact you admire professionally, feel free to ask her to coffee or other appropriate beverage to ask her opinion or guidance on a project or issue you're struggling with.

Make sure you stress in the invitation that you value her opinion, advice, or know that she has experienced something similar. This can be a wonderful bonding experience, and if enjoyed by both parties, could begin a more consistent mentor relationship. Keep in mind depending on the age, accomplishments, and lives of your contact, she may not be interested in a meeting like this. Many established professionals receive lots of requests to "pick your brain." Be aware of this possibility and be respectful.

You don't have to be young and approach an older contact for her opinion. Speaking with a younger colleague in a reverse mentorship role can be highly effective and create a lasting impression on your younger contact.  

Be Memorable

If you want to cultivate a network, you must use social media for professional purposes. It's a way to share what people in your network are doing giving them an additional venue for their content and news. It's also a great way to share what you are up to professionally and don't forget its search capabilities.

However, there's also a lot of noise in the social media streams. You'll want to make sure you stand out. That means spending about 70-80% of your time helping connect others and spreading their content and the rest of the time talking about what interests you.

Always make your content and social sharing unique. Allow your personality to come through, while remaining positive. People using social media professionally should not use it as a place to air dirty laundry or explosive complaints. If you wouldn't talk about it in a job interview, leave it out of your stream.

Share images that your network will enjoy seeing, especially inspirational quotes placed on images with your name in the corner. When your network shares the image, they will remember who gave it to them. If people see value in your content, it will increase the positive emotions they have for you as well.

Staying in contact with your network is easier than ever with social media, but the face-to-face opportunities must also be cultivated if you want to nurture successful, professional relationships. Like all relationships, placing a focus on the other person is always a good place to start. The more help and service you offer, the more highly they will think of you and your capabilities, and the more time and energy they will want to invest in your continued relationship.   

Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Evans

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