How to maintain professional relationships

building relationships
New answer on Jul 03, 2021
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jul 03, 2021

Hi, guys, I'd really like to listen to your views on this topic. I'm the type of guy who is good at building relationships, and like to keep in touch with people who I like. I am bad at maintaining professional relationships and I kind of avoid purposefully making friends and maintaining relationships with them just because they might be "helpful" to me.

Once in a while, when I need to pitch projects or find expert interviewees, I find it weird to reach out to people I've known but haven't maintained contact for a while. Also, I find it hard to keep in touch with seniors from prior firms as there's not much things in common. 

Could you share some tips on how to "maintain" professional networks, so that these network could add value to my professional career? Thanks.

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Majed
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replied on Jul 03, 2021
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Really great question! One of the very common things that most people complain about in any professional setting is that person x only reaches out when he/she needs something. 

I think there many ways to keep a relationship warm (both professional or not) for example: 

1) Only enter a relationship that view as long-term, meaning you have conviction that you want to be in touch with that person beyond the current interaction/need. If you are not finding that, then maybe you are not around people you enjoy working with. 

2) Show value without any expectations. This is much easier said than done. You will most likely do that for the wrong person/people but will only make you better at establishing trust. 

3) Find common interests (whether professional or not). Send them an article you have read every now and then. They don't have to respond or anything. It just keeps the communication lines open and active. 

4) Clearly communicate what they will benefit from any request you make (e.g., if you are looking for a job/project then you explain what skills/experiences you can offer). Sometimes they get nothing out of the interaction but A. you have already shown value without any expectations B. they like you as a person given the common interests C. most high achievers want to help others succeed if they are willing to help themselves. 

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Ian
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replied on Jul 03, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Honestly, I don't think one should live life only stating in touch with people that are "helpful". The people I stay in touch with are people I genuinely like being around. It just so happens some of these people are low level and some are high level. Some are in industries/jobs that end up being super helpful at one time and another, and some aren't. So what!

And, honestly, this approach has more benefits than anything. Why do you want to stay in touch with someone you don't like but just want to use? There are too many great people out in the world and too little time. People can tell if you're being phony or not and the best business opportunities come from your close friends/colleagues anyway!

People think networking means "knowing as many people as possible". It doesn't! It means having deep and strong relationships with people, and a reputation that preceeds you. People you can rely on and know well. The best network is one that doesn't feel like work.

That said, if you do want to maintain this network, nothing really beats an excel spreadsheet! Write down each person's name, where they work, what their "use" is, and have a column for when your next reach out needs to be. If you don't feel weird about this, I imagine it would be a good technique (though I can't speak from experience)

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Adi
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replied on Jul 03, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

haha yep, I struggle with this even today! So my advice to you applies to me as well:

  • I have been trying hard to remove "Whats in it for me" agenda. With this approach networking becomes a transaction and not a genuine desire to get to know someone & build a lasting relationship
  • 20% rule- go for quality and not quantity. You wont get along with everyone. So, be proactive and reach out regularly to people you get on with. They will reciprocate for sure
  • Dont hesitate and make contact. Dont hold yourself back
  • Be prepared for disappointment along the way. You will let people down and vice versa
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Ken
Expert
replied on Jul 03, 2021
Ex-McKinsey final round interviewer | Executive Coach

It's a great question that I tihnk many of thought of at some point in their careers. The advice I've always received and also given is to be genuine and adopt a style that makes you most comfortable. In such a network-driven society, I personally think it's completely ok to have an "outer circle" of your professional network where you have a slightly more "transactional" relationship based on individual needs. There's also only so many "virtual" coffees and catch ups one can have - I'm personally ok with people reaching out to me when they need something and when I can be helpful too.

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Majed gave the best answer

Majed

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