Establishing & Maintaining Contacts

To maintain your network, it is important to treat it like what it is — a valuable business asset. When growing your list of professional contacts, have confidence. No matter what your career stage, most people enjoy the chance to share their expertise. 

Make New Contacts

Most people are happy to assist others in their career search when they have the time.

Don’t be afraid to reach out.

  • Be polite. If you are courteous, no harm is done in making the effort to contact someone.
  • Be circumspect. Share your desire for insight, but don't ask directly for job help. Don't send a resume at first. 
  • Be patient, yet persistent. If you do not hear back after two weeks, reiterate your original message and ask if it is preferable to make contact at another time.

Use your first communication to establish common interest.

  • Begin your narrative. Explain where you found them and briefly share details about yourself.
  • Express interest. Explain your interest in their background, position or organization.
  • Get specific. Be detailed about what kind of help you might like. For example:
    • “More information about a career in R&D”
    • “Skills needed for a successful career in environmental consulting”
    • “Job resources for a particular geographic area”

Gain Insight and Opportunity

As you get to know a new contact, it's all about dialogue, ideally in person. Prepare to gain as much information as possible.

Meet in person, if possible.

  • Be professional. Dress appropriately and be on time. Bring resumes, just in case. 
  • Explore context. Get an inside view and compare it to previous workplaces.
  • Assess personalities. See how people are dressed. Evaluate the pace. 

Keep the focus on them, at first. 

  • Act like a reporter. Not sure what to say? Liken the experience to an informational interview.
  • Express interest. Early on, engage the contact in sharing their experiences.
  • Connect to your goals. Once you establish rapport, seek advice.

Be considerate of your contact’s time.

  • Come prepared. Define what you’d like to know. Pre-write a list.
  • Do research. Avoid wasting time on details that are already online.

Take the Next Step

Seek additional contacts.

  • Ask first. Seek permission to use your contact's name when contacting others.
  • Remain open. Continue researching careers; no one person is an authority.
  • Act quickly. If you are given names, follow up as soon as possible. 

Send a thank-you note and keep track of contacts.

  • Highlight insight. A personalized thank-you goes a long way.
  • Share progress. This is important if it is due to something they’ve recommended.
  • Stay connected. You may be colleagues or in a position to help them later.
  • Leverage social networks. Use LinkedIn or another site to manage contacts.