By Kenneth Hunter, Guest Blogger
The competitive world us professionals face, regardless of field, necessitates using every possible opportunity to improve our abilities, identify avenues for providing our services to broader audiences and (most importantly) building spheres of influence on a person-to-person basis.
Conferences, workshops, classes and even chance encounters provide professional with ideals mediums for developing relationships with colleagues, residents or potential employers and clients. Conversations lead to the sharing of ideas, comparing of projects, suggestions for future collaboration and, most importantly, swapping of contact information for future engagement.
Of course, a single opportunity to strike up a discussion or suggest how one could best help out with someone’s research or upcoming capital project does not always yield long-term benefit. Most of us can admit that of the hundreds, if not thousands of people we “connect” with face-to-face for the first time, few of them develop into professional relationships that yield their potential.
While differences in personality, time constraints and numerous other reasons can explain this phenomena, one critical factor within our control and ability to take action is the manner with which we followup on those initial introductions and meetings. How do you process the dozens of business cards, napkins and notes than you compile during a conference in order to tie these individuals into your critical network?
First of all, keep in mind that followup is always appropriate if someone hands out their business card or contact information. Shortly after receiving their information, take a moment to note the reason for a potential followup on the back or below the contact information, just in case you need to “jog” your memory later.
Next, remember that follow ups should be consistent with the tone set in the first encounter. Unless you “promised” something to the other person, re-initiate contact with a short email, phone call or written note. Make sure to reference a topic or item discussed.
If you are looking for a job or career advancement, do not use the first followup to send them a copy of your resume. Hand written notes work best in this case. Briefly remind them that you had a nice time talking to them about “career opportunities” or something like that, and do not forget to include another copy of your business card. The message can also include an offer to send them a copy of your resume, at their request.
If you happen to followup by email or on the phone, you also might want to consider scheduling responses (via Outlook, phone calendar, etc.) for 1-2 business days later, especially when it involves a multi-day conference.
One strategy I developed that worked well following a recent conference was to take some time before I left to go home and sort through the cards and notes aI received, as well as notes I wrote during sessions and encounters. I wrote out a list of those individuals I needed to followup on, as well as the information we discussed that I needed to include in the followup message. When I got back to work, I had everything I needed to do on a single sheet, arranged as action-oriented tasks.
Finally, do not forget, as soon as possible, to post business card and contact information into your electronic contact file. Whether you use Outlook, Google, or another application to maintain your contact records, it is important to be able to find information there before you forget to enter it in, or lose the business cards.
Without followup, potential relationships will go absolutely nowhere. Taking the time to initiate communication after that first encounter is not something one should leave to the other party. Action on your part is critical, especially in order to cultivate the growth of the professional network of contacts, colleagues and friends you need in order to succeed in the competitive world of the 21st century.
Additional information on this topic is available at http://everyjoe.com/work/networking-crisis-solved-how-to-follow-up-with-a-new-contact-386/.
ASPA Member Kenneth Hunter is an MPA graduate of The University of Georgia with more than a decade of experience in local government finance. Kenneth is the Budget & Evaluation Manager for the City of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Association for Budgeting & Financial Management and is a Board Member and Webmaster for the North Carolina Local Government Budget Association. You can follow Ken online via Facebook & Tumblr.