The power of long term networking

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I was speaking to a group of recent college graduates who all had the good fortune of being hired into the same company's IT consulting practice and were in the process of going through an intensive introductory training program. I would like to tell you what I told them.

I asked the class to make believe it was fifteen years in the future. Then, I pointed to a person on my left, I'll call her Mary, and asked the group to make believe that she was now the Senior Vice President of North American operations for the company. I then pointed to a person on my right named John and said he had left the consulting firm about ten years ago and was now the CIO of a Fortune 500 company.

With this stage set, I turned to Mary and told her that John's company was in the process of looking to hire a consulting company for a two million dollar project.

I then asked the group which of the following scenarios Mary would have wished had transpired over the past fifteen years.

1. Mary and John had kept in touch every couple of years via LinkedIn, simply saying hello and congratulating each other when each was promoted.

2. Mary and John have not spoken in the past ten years since John left the company, but she did go to his going away party.

3. Mary and John have not corresponded since the training program they were both in at the beginning of their careers.

I would venture to say that Mary had hopes for #1, then #2, and then #3. The moral of this story is that you never know where people's careers will lead them and the potential effect they could have on your career five, ten, or twenty years later. Therefore, a quick hello once in a while to an old colleague or friend not only keeps you connected to people you like, it simultaneously keeps you in touch with people that may be of professional advantage to you also.

Now let's take that same scenario, but with a small twist. Let's look at the quality of connection, rather than the time that has passed since their last correspondence. In this new scenario, John and Mary worked together about five years ago and haven't corresponded since John left the consulting firm to work for the client where he is now CIO.

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