Professional relationships can help your career, but maintaining them can take a lot of work. There are three main challenges people face in maintaining professional relationships, which are lack of time, lack of motivation and lack of confidence. Here are some tips for overcoming these challenges and building your professional network.
Maintaining professional relationships takes time and effort. If you already have a busy schedule, the thought of regularly meeting contacts for after-work events might be overwhelming.
The best way to overcome time pressures is to focus on maintaining a small number of high-quality connections. Identify a short list of people who can help you to maintain your goals, and spend your time reaching out to those individuals.
If your list of contacts still seems too long, separate the contacts by level of importance. Your most important contacts can help boost your career, so meet up with them regularly for drinks or dinner. Your least important contacts wouldn't have much of an impact on your career, so maintain casual contact by sending them an occasional email or text message.
If you don't know why you're maintaining a professional relationship with a certain person, motivating yourself to connect with them might be difficult. It is important to know why you want to stay in contact. For example, are you looking for a job in a particular industry? Does your contact have connections with people you aspire to work with?
Even if you need the contact to advance in your career, try to show interest in the person. Ask questions such as "What projects are you working on?" "Do you like your new job?" How was your holiday?" Build a rapport with the person instead of just asking for what you need.
Many people feel uncomfortable maintaining professional relationships because they feel like they are imposing on the people they want to connect with. The way to overcome this feeling is to find ways to be genuinely of service to the people with whom you want to maintain professional relationships. When you ask someone about the projects they are working on, think about whether you can help.
For example, perhaps you can offer to put your colleague in contact with someone who has experience in their field, or maybe you can recommend a book that might be helpful. Perhaps you have the right skills to help with the project yourself. When you offer this kind of value, people are generally pleased to maintain professional relationships with you.
Professional relationships are all about give and take. Along with asking for advice, offer help to your contacts whenever you can. Identify which professional relationships matter most to you, and reach out regularly to maintain a strong professional network.
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