Keep Networking (Even After You Have a Job)

Miriam Salpeter

Any networking expert will tell you to “never stop networking.” In fact, when you are employed is actually the best time to network, because people do not assume you want to ask them about a job! How can you keep networking, even once you’re busily engaged in your new position?

Update Your Online Profiles

Let your entire network know you’ve landed a new job by updating your LinkedIn and other social networking profiles. Adjust your settings in LinkedIn to be sure it pings your network, and you may even get a lot of congratulatory e-mails from contacts. Take the opportunity to request meetings or get-togethers with certain people who reach out to you and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining an active professional network, even once you have a job.

Don’t forget to post professional news on your more “personal” social networking profiles, too. For example, let your Facebook network in on the news you’ve landed a new job. When people congratulate you, invite some of them to meet for a drink or coffee, just to catch up.

Ramp Up Your Social Networking

No time to get out and meet people outside of work? Turn to social media for information and networking opportunities. Once you identify the best networks for you to connect with colleagues, join groups and engage in discussions that will allow you to expand your network while you learn new information that will help you become more marketable.

Thank People

It’s never a bad time to thank people, but for networking purposes, after you’ve landed a new job is an ideal time. Who helped you when you were in job search mode? Even if you already thanked people for their assistance and support, use the opportunity to share good news as another way to say thank you again. People appreciate when you say thank you and may be more likely to want to stay connected and help you in the future if you are gracious.

Introduce People

Now that your network is even bigger (since you have all these new work colleagues), make a point to take steps to be a connector. Introduce people you know to each other. This is a great way to keep networking, because when you make good connections for others in your network, those people will become even stronger members of your professional sphere.

Network at Work

The best place to network when you have a job is at work. After all, you spend most of your waking hours there; why not make the most of the opportunity? Perhaps you don’t consider getting to know your new colleagues, contacts, or customers to be “networking,” but no matter what you call it, when you do it well, the result is the same. You can increase the number of people who know, like, and trust you, and you’ll continue to expand your professional network with each new contact.

If you don’t want to blend into the décor, consider these tips to make sure you make an impression and expand your network at work.

Hone in on Organizational Stars

Every company has stars. These, typically charismatic and talented people always seem to land on their feet and attract positive attention. Who won a shout out at the last staff meeting? Who on your team seems to always be recognized for her contributions? Follow their leads. Identify factors that lead to recognition and attract positive attention in your workplace, and your networking quotient will go way up. People will want to work with you and be willing to recommend you for projects and opportunities.

Provide Insights and Never Complain

No one wants to be around someone who complains. If you’re always criticizing or commenting how you could have done something better, you’ll get the reputation for always being a downer at work. Track your own attitude. Be someone your colleagues will want to be around, and your networking options will improve exponentially. This advice also goes for comments on social media, especially if you are linked in any way to people in your workplace.

Be Helpful

Say, “yes” at work. Look for opportunities to help your colleagues. You may be surprised to learn how easy it is to make friends and expand your network at work simply by offering to lend a helping hand to people when they need it. Another benefit is that you’re more likely to get assistance when you need it, too.

Solve Problems

Every office needs a problem solver. What’s the biggest problem your organization or team faces right now? Take steps to help overcome the issue, and you will be able to add many people to your networking fan club.

Organize Activities

Networking at work is easier once you can get to know people. If your company or team doesn’t already have organized opportunities to meet at lunchtime, play golf, go for a walk, or attend an event in the community. Consider offering to set something up. If you don’t want to socialize with your work colleagues, you may prefer to schedule professional development events together, join a professional book club, or attend a speaker series. You’re only limited by your imagination. By becoming the “cruise director” and planning the activities, you solve a problem and create new networking opportunities—a double networking win!

Keep Involved With Professional Organizations

Especially if you got involved with a professional organization before you landed a job, but even if you need to start from scratch, networking in industry groups is the perfect way to ensure you never stop networking. In fact, you may even be able to convince your employer to cover the cost of membership or to attend events, since it’s in their best interest for you to be active, involved, and well known in your industry. Volunteer whenever you have something to offer, and you’ll easily maintain a healthy network.

Integrate Networking into Your Social and Family Time

You don’t always have to be at an event that has “networking” in the name to meet new people. Any time you’re with other people, you are networking. Consider these additional opportunities to network that don’t require any extra effort or planning on your part:

Places with Children and Pets

Parents of children and “fur kids” have many opportunities to network. The dog park is a great place to meet people who share at least one of your interests, and if your children are involved in sports, ballet, art class, or just enjoy playing outside, you have many chances to meet new people if you take your eyes off your phone long enough to make eye contact with another person. Keep in mind, if you’re a parent who does nothing but complain or starts arguments at little league events, you aren’t likely to win many friends.

At the Gym

Typically, most of us don’t welcome the opportunity to seek professional contacts while red-faced and sweaty, but the gym can be a great place to network. If you’re really smart, tuck a few business cards in a pocket or in your gym bag and have them at the ready when you work out.

Shopping

If you go to the mall or your favorite boutique, you may be able to strike up a conversation with someone—even in the dressing room. Most people love to be told that they look great in the outfit they are considering, so you have an easy opening.

Anywhere There Is a Line or a Wait

As long as you’re not sick, any waiting room can be a great place to network. The post office or grocery store line may also provide good opportunities to have a brief conversation with someone new. If you’re strategic about what you say, it’s possible to begin a networking relationship with a stranger.

Wherever People Gather

Yes, it’s true: some people have successfully networked at funerals and wakes. You don’t want to be disrespectful or attend such an event with the sole purpose of meeting a particular person, but if you happen to strike up a conversation while fondly remembering a mutual friend or acquaintance, there is nothing wrong with following up later.

When you keep in mind that your potential network is all around you, you’ll be open and available to new opportunities to meet people. Keep in mind: it’s easier to network when you’re dressed for success, so put on something halfway decent, even when you go to the grocery store. And, even with smart phone technology, it’s always a great idea to have traditional business cards to hand out. Even if you aren’t currently working for an organization, be sure to carry networking or business cards that make it easy for someone to know how to contact and stay in touch with you. Once you have a job, don’t let up on your networking. Leverage the new position and the opportunity to meet many people to add to your network, and you’ll never have to start your network from scratch again.

Miriam Salpeter is owner and founder of Keppie Careers (http://www.keppiecareers.com/), a coaching and consulting firm helping job seekers and entrepreneurs leverage social media and other tools to achieve their goals. She has appeared on CNN, and  major media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes and others have quoted her advice. In addition to her own blog, Miriam writes for U.S. News & World Report and for AolJobs.com. She is the author of the books, Social Networking for Career SuccessSocial Networking for Business Success: How to Turn Your Interests into Income, and  100 Conversations for Career Success. Named to CNN’s list of “top 10 job tweeters you should be following” and a “top 5” influencer on Twitter for job seekers by Mashable.com. Miriam also had her blog selected as a top career resource by Forbes. A vice president for a Wall Street firm prior to earning a master’s degree from Columbia University, Miriam ran the Career Action Center at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University before launching her own business.