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How to get better, and more, contacts

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As more people experience frequent job changes, it’s important to have a large personal network you can call on to help you, says Karen Wickre, a self-proclaimed connector and networking guru. Her tips for building great contacts over time:

•  Be helpful. Sometimes, you can’t offer your contacts exactly what they’re looking for. That doesn’t mean you can’t meet for coffee and give them useful advice anyway. If you can provide information that helps someone figure out a project or connects him to a resource, you’re strengthening a relationship for the future.

•  Keep in touch. Remember information about your contacts, so you can share articles or videos pertaining to their interests. This helps you stay in contact in a casual way.

•  When you want something real, make sure to communicate. When you need a specific introduction or job, thank your contact for everything she’s done for you and inform her of what you’re after. Keep her up-to-date. Sending gifts and thank-you notes is not uncommon to show appreciation.

•  Make quality referrals. Know your contact’s strengths so you understand how to pitch him to an organization. Get updates on his skills and accomplishments, so you can match him with the organizations you know are hiring.

•  Keep your promises. If you promise to refer someone to an organization, make sure you follow through on it. And there’s no problem saying you can’t help someone.

— Adapted from “I’ve Spent A Lifetime Building a Mighty Network,” Karen Wickre, Backchannel.

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