You've made the initial effort - attended a networking event, made a phone call, scheduled an informational interview - but now what?
How do you stay connected with new people you meet? How do you keep existing relationships alive? And how do you do it when you are an introvert who finds too much socializing draining? The following strategies can help you manage the process while taking into account your introverted personality.
When you meet someone for the first time and think you'd like to stay connected with that person, ask for the person's business card as a way to stay in touch.
Then, immediately follow up with a quick email that simply states that you enjoyed meeting him (or her) and your conversation about [fill in the blank] and look forward to future conversations.
Perhaps, if the initial meeting was at a large gathering, you'll want to suggest a one-on-one meeting or phone call to discuss a topic of common interest in more detail. By creating an opportunity for a more in-depth discussion, you are honoring your introverted preferences while nurturing this new relationship.
A corollary to the suggestion above is to invite your new contact to connect on LinkedIn. Most people welcome the opportunity to stay connected and to expand their own network.
This is also a low-risk request, if you're someone who is uncomfortable reaching out to other people. And it can help you to remember that, even if you're currently not employed, you have both expertise and resources of your own that are of value to others.
If you're actively using LinkedIn, a wonderful and low-energy way to stay on the radar screen of your network is to periodically update your status using the Status Bar feature. That's the white box that says "[Your name] is…" LinkedIn gives you 160 characters to inform your contacts about what you're doing - professionally. This feature also prompts you to make sure you're continuing to engage in professionally enriching activities, which is important in your job search.
With the simple effort of typing one sentence, you can simultaneously update your entire network about something you're doing that's on-brand for you professionally. Perhaps you recently read a professionally relevant book, or attended a seminar or class, or met with an industry leader, or did some independent research in your field. The status box lets you broadcast that news to everyone and remind them of what you're up to without asking anything from them in return.
This is a very meaningful yet nonintrusive way to touch base with a lot of people all at once.
Regularly scan the status updates of the people in your network and comment when appropriate.
Not all updates will warrant a comment, but many invite a congratulatory remark or other feedback. This comment can be very brief - it doesn't have to take much time or energy, and your contact will appreciate that you took the time to write a sincere "Congratulations. That's quite an achievement" comment. They'll feel appreciated and recognized, which in turn helps to foster and maintain the relationship.
Special events, in your life or in the lives of people in your network, provide a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. There are all kinds of software programs that help you remember special occasions in people's lives. And there are commonly celebrated events you can use to your advantage. The approach of the winter holidays gives you a reason to contact people. Thanksgiving, while not celebrated universally, can serve as a seasonal reminder to touch base with and thank people who have been helpful in your search.
All of these strategies focus on building and maintaining relationships, which is the cornerstone of networking. By continuing to be visible to your network in a professional context and by reaching out to them in a sincere and thoughtful way, you stay on their radar screen and increase the likelihood that they will think of you when appropriate job opportunities or related information of potential value to you comes along.
Additional advice from Wendy Gelberg to help introverts succeed with their networking, including (from the list on the right):
Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.