Ah… the often dreaded topic of ‘networking’ – but not to fret as it’s all a matter of perspective and approach.
As a search professional, networking is at the core of everything I do but I’m not implying that you should enter the ocean I swim in or bump things up to the level of intensity that I do it with. However, I’m amazed at how many people don’t put any energy into keeping in touch with those they have worked with in the past – especially with social networking platforms available to all (e.g. LinkedIn, G+, Meetup Groups, etc.)
So, perspective and approach are key to making this work for you.
Simply put, you’re not really focused on trying to build a network of friends but of professional connections. Unless you really didn’t like somebody that you worked with, seriously consider adding as many current and past co-workers to your LinkedIn account, G+ circles, smart phone or even an old school spreadsheets will do. Just do something! Keep in mind that once you move on physically that information can be a bit more difficult to obtain (even awkward at times) if you’ve had no ongoing connection with somebody that you might need to reach out to. Since a collection of contact info is an asset you no longer want to live without, it’s never too late to get this activity going … so start today!
The actual act of ‘networking’ is enough to make many gag, but what I’m suggesting is that you simply build and maintain this collection of names/emails/phone numbers/etc. over time. This way when/if you need to tap into that coveted collection of folks the work is already done. Also, it just doesn’t feel like networking if you collect this information over the long run with current co-workers. Perhaps just a name and email will do but social platforms like LinkedIn make all of this so easy to do so this all should be quite painless and a lot less stressful.
TAKE AWAY – Avoid as much networking out in the wild as possible by simply weaving this more casual data collection approach into your daily work life. My advice is to also invest a bit of extra energy into nurturing and developing your growing professional network so when/if you need to reach out you’re not just asking for something having given nothing in return in the past. That is, most likely your current co-workers are bound to become past co-workers sooner or later, so it doesn’t hurt to chime in and say hello every now and then so when/if you need to reach out you’re not greeted with “who is this person that says they worked with me at xyz?”