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Transitioning Your School Network to a Business Network

Tags:  Networking, Life after college

You've gone to college for four years and met an amazing group of people, from your room mate or sorority sisters/fraternity brothers to your class mates, club mates, and even your professors and advisors. These are people that you'll remember the rest of your life. And many will be people that you will keep in touch with as you move forward into your career.   You've connected through Facebook, and kept up with your friends' lives every day....sometimes every hour.

Fast forward to twelve months from now as you sit in your cubicle or office and consider who to call about an issue you are dealing with at work. You have a whole new group of contacts in the business world; however, that doesn't mean that the people who saw you through those long four years aren't an equally great resource.

What's good about the connections you made in school is that they have gone on to explore areas of business and commerce that are likely different from you and so they have a different perspective on things. However, because you developed a relationship during your college days, often they know you and how you think, so their guidance is invaluable. And if your issue at work has more personal underpinnings – your boss is a control freak – that personal relationship will come in handy.

In order to transition your school network to a business network, here are four steps you need to take.

Step 1: Organize Your Contacts

All the contacts in the world won't help you if you don't organize them. So you need to start by thinking about what each person offers.

First, consider if they are strictly a work contact, strictly a personal contact or if they are both a business and personal contact. Next, set up a system for storing this contact information, be it a Rolodex system, business-card file system, computer spreadsheet, address book or an index card system.

Step 2: Determine Who to Keep

Once you have figured out how you will organize your contacts, your next step is to determine who you want to stay in touch with. You may find that while you have many contacts, there are truly only a small number with whom you keep current. Now is the time to de-clutter.

That doesn't necessarily mean you should toss out contact information for people you aren't currently talking with on a regular basis, it just means that you may need to relegate those you contact less frequently to a pile of their own.

Step 3: Update All Information

Now that you've figured out how to organize your contacts and who you will keep at your fingertips, make sure the information you are storing is up to date.

Keep in mind if you hang on and store business cards, you may wind up with a very messy looking system of business cards as contact information changes. And while transferring contact information to another system (i.e. Rolodex, spreadsheet, online contacts file or networking group, like LinkedIn) takes some time to set up, once in place it is easy to maintain and keep looking fresh.

Step 4: Merge and Purge Annually

There may be people in your network that you rarely, if ever, call upon. In fact, your intention may be to remain in touch, but, for whatever reason, you don't.

That's why it is important to checkout your network at least once a year. Reorganize and purge old contacts. You can easily do this by putting the date on each business card or online contact system so you'll know when it was created or received. Keep your list of current and active contacts near you while those that you don't have as much contact with go into a separate file system.

The whole idea is to keep your network ready and up to date. And that means the new people you meet throughout your career as well as the friends and contacts that have been around for years.

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