Cultivate Your Contacts

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Posted by Julie Feinerman on September 19, 2011
Cultivate Your Contacts

So you’ve prowled the latest on-campus recruiting event or career fair and gathered a cache of business cards. Don’t just toss those into a desk drawer to gather dust. Each one represents a potentially valuable link in your growing network.

Following up with contacts while they’re still fresh is the best way to build an otherwise passing encounter into an enduring relationship. Unfortunately, many students tend to halt their networking efforts once they exchange information, says Heather Huhman, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle. “Networking means taking that extra step and building the relationship,” says Huhman. With that in mind, she helped us come up with a few tips for writing the perfect follow-up email.

Make A Connection
When following up with new contacts, start the email with a reminder of where you met—an alumni event, a recruiter meet-and-greet, etc. “Unfortunately, it’s something people forget to mention and may leave the [contact] confused,” says Huhman. Also, try to mention a detail that will help the contact recall your particular interaction. It could be as simple as a humorous moment you shared or a factoid related to your conversation. Hopefully, she’ll connect a face with your name.

Promote Reciprocity
Relationships are a two-way street, so asking for something without giving in return is bad form. Huhman suggests passing along a potential client or article of interest. If you can offer useful information or connect your contact with someone, he’ll start to see the relationship as mutually beneficial, strengthening the bond.

Continue the Conversation
Did your connection ask you a question you didn’t know the answer to when you first spoke? Supply any follow-up information in your email. This will show you were paying attention and that you care enough to answer questions after the fact.

Call to Action
“It is important to keep the relationship going,” says Huhman. At the end of the email, try to initiate further exchanges. Offer to buy a cup of coffee or try to schedule a phone call or informational interview. At the very least, make a note to email your contact if you discover a relevant article or if you hear of her good fortune in the news—anything to stay on her radar.

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