The Key to Utilizing Your Network: Maintaining Your Contacts

So you attended the Career Fair, or the Professional Development Conference, and connected with several key employers.  Now what?

How you maintain your network is equally as important as the conversations you have at these events.  Without the proper follow-up, your conversation will likely result in a dead end.  But by following the steps below, you will be well on your way to making your network an integral part of your job search.

  • Ask for contact information. Make sure that you obtain contact information from every person with whom you connect.  The easiest way to do this is by asking for a business card.
  • Follow-up within 24 hours. Send an email thanking the employer for his or her time, and expressing interest in continuing the conversation.  After attending an event such as the Career Fair, where you may speak with ten different employers, it can be difficult to remember which conversation corresponds with which individual.  My advice: after each networking conversation, write a few key points on the back of the employer’s business card.  That way, when you sit down to write your follow-up email, you can include some important ideas from your discussion.  This will help the employer remember you and show that you were attentive during the conversation.
  • Maintain your connection. Most people stop after the follow-up email.  What will distinguish you is how you maintain your contacts beyond that point.  In order to make effective use of your network, you need to have ongoing conversations.  That does not mean that you need to reach out to your network on a weekly basis.  However, it is important to contact the members of your network periodically to demonstrate a vested interest in the relationship.  Doing so means that you will be on their mind when opportunities cross their desk, and it will not seem like you are only interested in contacting them when you need a favor.  Utilizing LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected.  To find out more about how to use LinkedIn to your advantage, attend one of the Center for Career Development’s LinkedIn workshops.  A list of upcoming events can be found here.
  • Look for ways that you can help members of your network. As college students, it can be difficult to visualize how you can help an employer.  But keep in mind that a job posting signifies a niche in the company that needs to be filled.  Your prior job experience, along with your academic background, has given you skills that add value to the workplace and will make you an attractive candidate to an employer.  In addition, remember that your network is not limited to professional connections.  If you see a job posting that might interest some friends, pass it on—they are likely to return the favor in the future.

-Natalie Vieira, Career Intern