Throughout your time at school, you’ll meet friends, professors, visiting lecturers, group advisors and organization coordinators. You’ll attend events, conferences, seminars and meetings. You’ll explore new subjects, topics, industries and potential careers. And through all of it, you’ll meet more people than you could possibly keep up with!
Because it’s essentially pointless to have valuable contacts if you lose track of how to contact them, finding ways to organize, keep track of, and keep up with all of these connections is just as important as building your network in the first place.
Building New Connections:
There are plenty of people in your life that are already potential professional contacts and future colleagues, from your classmates and fellow employees to your family and friends.
One of the best ways to meet more people you can work with in the future is to attend events, socials, conferences and happy hour nights and simply find people that interest you and that you click well with.
Another way is to email people in your geographic region or industry that you respect for the work that they do, and simply ask to set up a coffee date to learn more about what they do, how and why they do it, and what advice they might have for you. You’ll be surprised by how many people are willing to meet with you!
There are plenty of ways to organize your contacts- Google contacts, your computer’s address book, your hard copy address book- and it’s best to do so in more than one way in case you lose your Rolodex or your computer crashes and you haven’t backed it up in awhile (that being said, make sure you back up your data regularly!).
1. Save all the business cards you receive, and write notes on the back of each to remind yourself of where you met someone, what you talked about and what they’re particularly interested in.
2. Try to organize contacts into different groups based on whatever categories make sense to you- maybe it’s by industry, by occupation or by region. Use a method that makes sense for you. (For example, Derek might separate his contacts into “designers,” “programmers,” “venture capitalists,” etc…I might separate mine into different industries that people work in that I cover as a journalist.)
A day or so after you meet someone you really want to keep in touch with, shoot them an email that says something along the lines of “Dear X, I really enjoyed speaking with you about Y at Z event…I really appreciated what you had to say on the topic, and I’d really like to keep in touch. Thanks, etc.”
If you simply want to make sure they know you appreciated your conversation, you can leave it at that, but it’s also a good idea to find a potential follow-up. That might be setting up a coffee date where you can meet and discuss potentially working together, or just asking a few more questions in the email. Every few months, shoot the people you’ve met another email to see how they’re doing, what they’re up to, and keep them updated on where you are as well.
Making yourself stand out to new contacts:
This is why your “personal brand” is essential. What makes you stick out? How do you define yourself? Why should people remember you?
When you meet someone and walk away thinking “This is John Smith, he designs kitchen appliances with a focus on sustainability,” you know that he probably has a well-thought-out personal brand: you know not only what he does, but why he does it, and whenever you think “kitchen appliances and sustainability,” you’ll think of John Smith. He’s memorable. Make sure that when you introduce yourself to new people, you make it easy for them to remember you that same way- and voila, you’re a valuable “contact” for them as well!
See you next week!
-Erica and Derek
Derek is a serial entrepreneur and author of the book “Owning Y.O.U. The Personal Branding Action Guide.” About to graduate from the University of Washington, Derek majored in Entrepreneurial Ecommerce. Currently, Derek is the creative director at Wisdom N’ Treachery, a digital communication and branding consultancy. Derek resides in Seattle, Washington. To find out more, read his blog, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Linkedin.
Erica is a senior convergence journalism major at the University of Missouri getting ready to take the “next step” and is excited to share her experiences with you along the way. She spends most of her time reporting for local NBC affiliate KOMU 8 News, researching and experimenting solutions for the future of mobile media production for VeriCorder Technology, and exploring new ways journalists can tell stories and connect with readers, viewers and visitors. Connect with Erica on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, or check out her Web site.