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Etiquette at Work

Don’t be late in building a network

By Peter Post
Globe Correspondent / September 11, 2011

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John got a pink slip on Friday. On Monday, he started calling friends, people he had met on the job, and anyone else he could think of.

“Networking is the key to finding a job,’’ he’d been told. So John couldn’t understand why no one called him back.

John had made a classic error. He tried to set up his network only when he needed it. By then, it was too late. Networking is a process. It starts in school and should be pursued throughout your career. If you haven’t already started building a network, do so now.

Your network should be a mix of people in your business life:

■A colleague whose work ethic and opinions you appreciate.

■A boss you admire for his forthright approach.

■A client who knows your abilities.

■A friend whose success you aspire to.

■ A former intern or assistant.

■ People you’ve met through trade associations or volunteer work .

Stay in contact with them two or three times each year. Send a note of congratulation when you hear of their accomplishments. When you read a great article or come across a business tip, forward it to them.

When the day comes that you need your team, plan interactions carefully. Be sure to contact everyone and let them know what your situation is.

Don’t leave it to a phone call. Invite members of your network to meet for coffee or lunch. Have information on your life experience and work history ready to give to them.

If a member of your network responds with an offer to help, listen carefully. There’s a big difference between offering to be a sounding board and offering to make an introduction to a specific company.

Stay in touch with your contacts, letting them know of your progress. When you find a job, be sure to let everyone know immediately. Follow-up with your sincere thanks.

One of the most forgotten aspects networking is being willing to help others. A network, after all, is just that. People helping people.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.