Your career will live and die on the relationships you create. Some relationships will help you get your next job; others will help you complete an important project. We learn early in college that networking is vital—and establishing the relationship can be the hardest part. Soon after we begin our career, we learn the importance of not burning a bridge.
But how often do we think about actively maintaining a relationship? Here are a few key points I've learned that are helpful to maintaining those connections vital to your career:
Respond to E-mails and phone calls promptly. When you receive an E-mail or phone call from a client/connection, return the call promptly (best by end of business day). Even if you don't have the answer, a reply will let them know you received the message and are on task. In addition, it is important not to set yourself up for an unreasonable deadline—manage expectations!
Be on time. Punctuality is basic respect. Your time is valuable and so is theirs. Once you believe your time is more important, the relationship is dead.
Reach out frequently. The frequency of your reach outs will vary with the formality of your relationship with your connection. Reaching out to your network in the dry times will let them know they are still on your mind. A couple of tips I have learned is to set "Google Alerts" for important clients. When big news passes through, a simple phone call can really impress. Also, don't be afraid to take a few notes on important facts or events your client may mention (children, upcoming weddings, etc.). It may be useful for small talk on one of these reach outs.
Don't milk your connections. The fable of the goose who lays golden eggs applies to your network. If you look to get rich or get ahead quickly through only a couple of your business relationships, all you'll build is resentment. Instead, you could pass on taking a large profit on a client in the hopes of maintaining a relationship. Or, wait awhile before asking your mentor to connect you with the job you want if you just hit him or her up for an invite to a major networking event. Your patience will be rewarded.
Brandon Alsup graduated from Marquette University with a degree in accounting. He is working for a Big 4 accounting firm in Milwaukee while seeking a master's degree in taxation at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Brandon blogs his ideas and experiences on Newly Corporate. He hopes to help other generation Ys navigate the working world and avoid the mistakes he's made!