A professional network is more than just a list of well-placed contacts. It’s a collection of relationships, built on a foundation of time, energy and emotional investment. The people that you see every day, at work or in any social group, are in the best position to learn what you’re all about over time. In other words, these are solid, meaningful relationships, whether they’re built professionally or personally.
Yet it’s all too easy to leave those relationships behind when you move from one social group or employer to another. Easy, but not advisable. Maintaining those relationships is more than worth the effort.
Life Changes on the Horizon? Don’t Let Relationships Slip Away
We move from one social group to another for many reasons, and most of us are part of multiple groups at any given time. A change in employment, location or even recreational interests can easily lead to a shift from one social group to another. That’s either a challenge or an opportunity, depending on your perspective.
The challenge is that maintaining “old” relationships can be difficult, especially when life circumstances push you in a new direction. Take switching jobs, for example. A new job may also mean changes in living situation, location, schedule and availability. The relationships that were simply part of your everyday life suddenly require more effort when you’re not automatically seeing those people every day.
The opportunity is that there’s no rule saying you can’t build new relationship while still maintaining your old ones. On a personal level, forging and strengthening relationships is a powerful, positive experience. On a professional level, relationships open doors, encourage the sharing of ideas, and create opportunities for collaboration which would never have existed otherwise.
The Key to Maintaining Relationships Is Not a Mystery
It all comes back to effort, and a willingness to keep in contact even when it’s not convenient. The good news is that we no longer have any excuse to let those relationships slip away completely. You can hop onto Facebook, LinkedIn or your email account from anywhere, and sending a friendly note only takes a few moments of your time.
If you prefer traditional communication channels, picking up the phone is just as easy. If your change in circumstances didn’t come with a change in location, make it a point to meet up for coffee, happy hour or whatever works for you. These aren’t groundbreaking solutions, but maintaining relationships doesn’t necessarily require a grand strategy. The most important thing is being present and making the effort.
You might also find opportunities to mix one social group with another. Take them. Networking is great, but community is the real prize. Every relationship starts with an introduction, and every community starts with a few members. Bringing people together has major benefits, and will only strengthen your community. I have done this my whole life and the value it brings to my life is immeasurable. A Network Gives You Reach… But A Community Gives You Power!
Building a community isn’t just about keeping your employment options open, or creating a professional network. It’s also immensely satisfying on a personal level. Few things in life are more enjoyable than sitting down with a group of old friends, realizing that your bond is still as strong as ever, and seeing that introductions you made in the past have led to positive relationships between others in your group. Just remember that reaching that point will require real effort on your part. #RonR… #NoLetUp!
This first appeared on Ted Rubin.
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