You meet a lot of people when you’re abroad. From colleagues and clients at your internship to contacts you meet at networking events, volunteer activities, and social functions, there are so many connections worth keeping in touch with after you return home.
Maintaining relationships with those you’ve met abroad can lead to a myriad of opportunities, so long as you reach out to contacts in an appropriate, professional manner.
1) Create a List of Significant Contacts
Of the many people you met abroad, who do you feel could become the strongest contacts? These may be people you felt a great connection with, or they may be people who are in the field or working at a company you are interested in.
Hopefully you opened the door to communication by exchanging business cards or contact information. If you have their business cards, gather them up and save them to your phone or computer address book. If you don’t have their business card, search for them online. Especially if it is a professional contact, you should first try looking them up on LinkedIn.
In fact, you should make an effort to connect with all contacts you make abroad on LinkedIn if they have an account. Connect on other social media sites as appropriate to your relationship with the contact.
2) Send a Follow-Up Message
Some experts advise following up with a contact immediately after a meeting, while others stress the importance of a strategic approach. Ideally, it’s a combination of both.
Following up sooner is better because the memory of your encounter is still fresh in the other person’s mind, but you can easily reach out to contacts later if you connect it to a specific occasion, a topic of conversation you discussed, or an interest you both shared. For example:
I hope you’ve had a great summer!
This is John Smith. We met at the ABC networking event for engineers in Berlin. I was the American intern with That Big Company.
I came across an article today that reminded me of our conversation about XYZ. Has your company come up with a way to address that issue?
I also wanted to thank you again for sharing your thoughts and advice with me. What intrigued me the most was your insight into ABC. I would love to connect and continue that conversation some time.
The medium for following up is up to you. Email tends to be the best for this kind of outreach, but depending on your relationship with the contact or the way you are connected, you may find that a message through LinkedIn or another social network is more effective.
If you do speak over the phone, respect their time. Don’t take more than 15-30 minutes of their work schedule to speak with you, or else you might interfere with their productivity.
3) Be Goal-Oriented in Your Approach
Take a moment to think about why exactly you want to build a relationship with this contact or institution? Some possibilities may include:
- Gain insight into the field or specific topics related to your field
- Develop a mentorship relationship
- Find out more about their company environment
- Explore future job prospects (or internships) in a specific field / at a specific company
- Remain open to future collaborations
- Get information on graduate school programs, study abroad, or research opportunities
- Maintain a personal connection
Express your interest to your contact clearly. Be specific when you ask them for help, and spell out what it is that you want them to do for you: send you more information on something specific, direct you to another contact person, set up a virtual meeting, or connect you with employers, peers or alumni.
4) Continue the Conversation & Keep in Touch
With any relationship, it’s important that you keep it alive and stay in touch. While it’s always good to be clear and to the point, a strong relationship will likely include some more informal conversation that is not all business-related.
Also, remember that relationships are a two-way street. Think about what you might offer your contacts in return for their help, such as sharing knowledge, writing a blog about your experience, recommending them to others, or connecting them with relevant individuals or organizations in your home community.
Keep your contacts in mind. If you come across an article that reminds you of them or a topic that you spoke about, share it with them. If there’s a national holiday coming up, send them a greeting. It doesn’t take much to show people that you care for them and that you appreciate their help. With these things in mind, you’ll be a resourceful networker in no time!