Networking is an invaluable skill, and it’s only the first step in the process. The contacts that you create by networking can help you to gain valuable skills, make meaningful connections, and advance your career, if you know how to nurture those relationships past the initial point of contact.

Here are some ways to turn your networking contacts, whether virtual or in-person, into meaningful connections:

Follow Up Quickly and Effectively

We can meet many people each day, especially with the ease of attending virtual events, so it is important to follow up with people while the encounter is still fresh in their mind. Make a note of their preferred form of contact and follow up no later than 48 hours after your meet. The window of opportunity closes more quickly than you may think, and if you wait too long to interact after your initial meeting you may be letting wonderful opportunities pass you by.

Maintain a Relationship, Even Without a Clear Goal

Sometimes you’ll meet people with whom you feel you have a connection, a shared passion, or a similar outlook on life—but their professional life may seem unrelated to yours. You should still follow up with this person and maintain some form of networking relationship with them, because these people are often the ones who turn out to provide the most exciting and groundbreaking opportunities!

Maintaining relationships with professionals outside of your field is a great way to broaden your knowledge base, maintain a well-rounded set of contacts, and open the door to creative, interdisciplinary projects.

Listen, and Take Note

Everybody wants their voice to be heard and to be remembered; it’s human nature! Ensuring that you provide that feeling to your new networking contacts is a surefire way to nurture a positive relationship with them, which will ultimately benefit you and your career aspirations in the long run.

After your initial meeting, make a few quick notes about the details that you’ve learned about this person, such as their educational background, family life, or a hobby they mentioned that they’re passionate about. Try to naturally fit in these details into your next interaction to show them that you were listening. It will help to set the tone for a productive professional relationship.

Express Gratitude

If someone has gone out of their way to help you to achieve something, or to introduce you to a valuable contact, be sure to express your appreciation. Mazeena Raffi, an Employment Consultant with the ACCES Connector program, and a seasoned mentor to newcomers explains, “Showing your gratitude ensures that this person knows that you recognize their efforts and makes them far more likely to continue treating you with generosity moving forward.”

You can send a thank you note, buy them a coffee, or do a favor in return. Any way that you choose to express your gratitude will be appreciated, and it will go a long way in building a strong foundation for your professional relationship.

Be Authentic

Professional networking means meeting many people, hearing many stories, and forming many first impressions. Across the professional world, and particularly within networking events, it’s common for people to put on an act to try to become a person that they think will please their hopeful contact. However, this façade is often easy to spot and will work against you, making for a first impression that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Of course, you want to be the best version of yourself and present yourself in a way that will hopefully attract new contacts and form meaningful relationships. The key here is that you want to be the best version of yourself. Authenticity is respected and showcasing your quirks and individual personality helps you to have organic, memorable encounters.

Networking is just the tip of the iceberg—creating lasting, meaningful relationships from your networking contacts is what will truly benefit you professionally and help your career trajectory to soar to new heights and start the new year off right!

For more information on networking and mentoring programs at ACCES, visit our Mentoring Programs page.