Two years later, I stand strong on my network here in Chicago and faced another worry. For the first time since starting Career Girl Network, I’m going back to Minneapolis and engaging once again with my network there. I’ve traveled to Minneapolis many times since moving to Chicago, but always with the intention of seeing family and friends only. This time, I extended my trip a full week to reconnect with colleagues and connections that make up my network in Minneapolis. But something happened with this trip that I didn’t expect. I encountered new and strange worries in the weeks prior to leaving. I asked myself — is my network in Minneapolis still there? Will these people even want to see me? Are my relationships as strong as I once believed them to be?
As I reached out to numerous former colleagues, trusted connections, and friends, I was delighted to find that not only was my network still strong, it seems to have grown even stronger. Old friends rearranged their schedules to see me and I’m connecting with the powerful and incredible women who make Minneapolis’ business community great. I’m armed with 20+ meetings on my calendar for the week and realized how blessed I am.
I ask you this — is your network as strong as you think it is? If not, how do you create a network that remains strong through years when you might move away, change jobs or make massive industry changes? Here are my tips to create a network that will stand with you even with years past:
- Stay in touch. This might be a no-brainer, but it’s harder than you think. When you leave a job or a city behind, you think nothing will change. You think you’ll still grab lunch with coworkers even though you’re across town, you’re sure you’ll speak via phone to connections across the country just to check in. But time goes on and phone calls, emails, and meetings become fewer and farther between. And finally you realize you haven’t spoken in years and you just don’t know how to reach out. Instead, do your best to check in and say hello now and then.
- Birthdays mean something. If you can, start collecting the birthdays on your calendar now of those you care about and network regularly with. Down the road, you’ll be surprised how much clout you can get just by remembering someone’s birthday and sending a short email to wish them well.
- Keep connecting the dots. It’s easy when you leave a place to assume that you should now only network in your current city. But don’t stop networking in your past locations, either. If someone in your new city is looking for a law firm connection for a potential mentor, don’t count out a phone relationship he or she might have with someone you know across the country. Introduce new friends to old, introduce friends in different cities to one another, and your network will get stronger — which benefits you and your connections.
Keeping your networks strong should be as important to you as updating your resume, your LinkedIn, and keeping your wardrobe looking good. It says as much about you and your brand as any of those things do.