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Career Management With The Help of Technology: Nurturing Your Network Wed 25 Feb 09

This is the fourth in a series of four posts regarding managing your career with the help of technology.  I've chosen the title words very carefully as I wanted to talk about the life-long process of career management not to be confused with the job search process.  Oh for sure, the job search process is a part of this but the management of your career should not start and stop with each job search you go through.  I am eager to learn what has worked well for you.  Please leave your comments and suggestions. 

Watering_plants_at_dunwoody_jstownsley Okay, you've told people who you are, branded yourself and have established your network, time to kick back and relax, right?  Not exactly.  Your network is really about relationships.  It needs care and attentive nurturing.  Would you be inclined to help out a former network who only calls every few years when they need something from you?  Of course not.

Because networking is about relationships you have to actively and continually engage.  Clearly because these are personal relationship the personal touch, a phone, a conversation, a lunch meeting etc. is the best way.  However, when it is not possible to reconnect personally technology can supplement your efforts. 

Connecting/re-connecting on a regular basis is important to this relationship.  It allows you to learn more about each other and to be available to help each other when needed.  Network relationship like personal relationship will wither and die if neglected.

Blogging can help somewhat in connecting with your network but it has significant limitations.  Because you are presumably blogging on regular basis it does keep you out in front of your readers and network where they won't forget about you.  However, since your post may be a general statement of your thoughts and feelings there is no personal connection.  In addition you may find that much of your network is not interested in reading or following blogs.

Twitter on the other hand does allow a much more personal or perhaps personable conversation and is much more amenable to a two-way discussion.  The 140 character limit can tend to stifle significant interaction but a little is always better than none at all. 

Facebook and MySpace allow you to post information and interact with those in your network making these social media tools great ways to interact with your network.  Your blog posts and tweets from Twitter can be fed to these and you can always add ad hoc commentary and receive responses.  When using these you will need to consider your privacy settings as everything posted can be open to the public.

However, the biggest issue with all forms of social media may be how much of your network uses it.  If most of your network doesn't use Twitter, Facebook or MySpace the potential for these tools to help nurture your network is obviously limited.

Two mature technologies that can be useful are instant messaging and email.  The both offer an opportunity to engage in personal communication with your network in a very easy way.  Email has the added advantage in that just about everyone uses email.  Personally I prefer email as it allows me to reach my entire network and I can make my message as big as necessary (although I do try to keep it brief) and people can respond as they have time. I periodically email my network to let them know what is going on with me and ask them to update me on their status and how I can help them.

The other point to keep in mind is that you don't have to limit yourself to one technology.  You can mix and match them as needed to meet your needs and those of your network. The important thing is to use whatever is helpful in nurturing and maintaining your network.  Reach out and communicate with your network during the times when you don't need their help, offer to be of help to them.  If you let your network wither and die it won't be there when you need it.

Lastly, and I know this is repetitious, please never confuse online networking with real networking.  These tools can supplement your real networking but can never replace a true personal networking relationship.

What technologies have you found to be useful in nurturing your network?  I'd love to hear your comments.

"Watering plants at Dunwoody" photo by jstownsley

Prior posts in this series:

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