Saturday, December 18, 2010

Keeping in touch: the safety net (almost) everyone neglects

Where are they now? Come to think of it, where are you now?
For staying the same size, the world is shrinking pretty rapidly. Between Google, cheap telecommunications, cell phones, and Facebook, there are lots of ways to stay in touch with old friends.
Remembering to do so can be the bigger problem. Remember those friends from high school and college? They would have been happy to stay in touch with you, but now that you've let them drift away, it's a little tougher to go back to them again.
Insight: It's more important to stay in touch with your friends from college than it is to remember anything you learned there. The network of upwardly mobile, like minded friends is that valuable.
Your network is like a bank with lots of different accounts, that disappear if you don't keep paying attention to them. If you pay attention, they'll become more and more valuable, as the people you're staying in touch with move on, move up, and have more experiences.
Staying in touch with people is worth the effort. Make a point of it. It's much easier to have a support group to call on when you need help than to need help and have to rebuild the network. It's also a really good feeling to be able to help out friends. 
You're not the only one changing. Other people are growing and changing too. As their connections, experiences, and spheres of influence expand, they become more valuable.
Whether you like it or not, you're swinging on the trapeze. You might even be very good at it. That's no reason not to spend a little time taking care of your safety net. You never know when you might need it.
Bonus tip: Be nice to everyone. Another upshot of the shrinking world is that you never know when you'll run into somebody again, or when something you did for (or to) someone a long time ago might come back to haunt or reward you. Even if you're calling a company to complain about lousy service, be nice to the person on the phone. It's almost certainly not their fault, and being nice might even get you better service. It certainly won't make things worse.
There's homework this week. Get back in touch with at least one person you've been neglecting, who you think might be happy to hear from you. Christmas cards don't count.
Bonus Web Only Content: This column was inspired by the Manager Tools Building a Network podcast. If you're looking for practical, actionable information that will make you far more effective in business and in life, I highly recommend their Manager Tools and Career Tools podcasts.
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