Keeping in touch with your network
There comes a time in every traveler’s life, when they must decide between going back to a stable and steady life, or continuing on a path of adventure: the nomadic lifestyle. Few will choose the latter, and most will move on to other things in life. In another article I argued the point, why backpacking isn’t solely for backpackers. Most people will go on to become doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, teachers, mechanics, waiters/waitresses, farmers, and what ever else comes up in life. In this article, I am going to give you both some reasons for maintaining your professional network, and how to maintain your professional network while you travel. That way, when you finish your globetrotting, you might have a few connections when you get home.
Reasons to maintain your professional network when you travel
First off, why would you want to maintain a professional network when you travel? Well, because if you don’t, it won’t be your network anymore! It will be your outwork (<<- Just made that one up). The answer is simple: travel all you want, believe what you want, connections are how most people get through life. Not knowing anyone is a difficult way to get through life. Thus, both your personal and professional networks are extremely important. The maintenance of those relationships is a must. Here are just a few of the many reasons to keep in contact with your professional network when traveling:
1.) When you return – The most obvious reason is for when you return from traveling. When you return from traveling, you will need to re-establish yourself, both socially and professionally. You will need to get your name out there and let people know that you are available and eager for work.
2.) Might be about to help you – Your professional network might even come in handy when you are traveling. They may have other connections or people along the way who you can meet, connect with, stay with, or maybe even work with. If they know you are traveling and your whereabouts, then you really never know who might refer you to someone else.
3.) You will stay in their mind – If the last project you worked on with your said network was something that you did notably, then there is a good chance that you will be remembered for it. Keeping in touch with them will make them remember you more. By maintaining a level of communication with them, you will effectively stay on their mind. Jobs might be given to someone else, promotions may be passed, but they will remember you.
4.) To strengthen your rapport – Another major reason to keep in constant contact with people is because you will strengthen your pre-existing rapport with the specific person or group. By maintaining a line of communication, they are not only reminded of who you are, but additionally your continued growth. Think of this connection as a friend. Your best friends are usually the ones who you have been knowing the longest right? The bonds can be strengthened by people knowing you for longer, if maintained correctly.
5.) Just makes sense – At the very least, they know you are still around, wherever that is. It just makes sense not to fall of the grid, unless you want to of course. Assuming that you plan to return to organized life, you want to have at least a dot on the radar that is the professional world. Make that dot closer to the center by keeping in touch.
How to maintain your professional network when you travel
Tip 1: Let people know that you are leaving – The best thing that you can do is explain to people what you are doing. Let them know that you are going traveling, even drop the line ‘taking a sabbatical‘ if you think that it sounds more professional. The worst thing that you can do is just take off to some unknown island, then take 3 weeks to responds to someone when they email you. You will come across as flaky and not dependable. A stigma you don’t want attached to you. Keep the lines of communication open. No one can fault you for taking some time off or experiencing something new. In fact, most will likely applaud you if you place it right.
Tip 2: Social Media – The internet has revolutionized communication in ways never thought to be imaginable. Part of communication with your ‘home base’ is keeping in contact with them through social media. Having a web presence on Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn, will let people know what you are doing and where you are at the time. There are tons of people out there who do a great job of integrating social media into their professional brand. Become one of them!
Tip 3: Emails – I call them email ‘shout outs’. When I am on the road, or at home for that matter, I will contact professionals and professors who I want to maintain contact with via email. I do this by sending an update/checking up email. It usually reads something like:
I haven’t heard from you in a while and just wanted to catch up. I have been traveling a bit recently, and I have been out of touch.
How have you been? What is the latest on that development we talked about? How is business in China?
Look forward to hearing from you, I hope all is well!
Very simple, to the point. They remember you, know what you are doing, and update you on the latest. You are in touch.
Tip 4: Grow your network – When you travel, you meet tons of people. Well, at least you can if you so choose. Use Tip 3 for these people as well. In addition, make sure you deliver on anything you promise. For example, if you promise to send them an article, then send it. If you promise to upload a picture for them, then upload two. Be a person of your word, and they will remember you for it.
Tip 5: Leave on good terms – This may seem obvious, but I am serious. Finish your business. Don’t leave any knots untied, or papers incomplete. Clarify with everyone that anything you need to do is finished before you start jet-setting. This could be as simple as sending someone some files or documents, or as complex as completing an assignment. Just make sure it gets done.
Tip 6: Reminders/topics of interest – This can be a good method, but will vary depending on how close you are with the person. If you are ever on the road, and come across something that you think may be of interest to someone back home, then tell them about it. For example, if you come across a method of doing business that you may think could benefit them, then let them know how it works. What if you see an idea on how to make a process better? Let others know. Something like:
Hey John/Jane Smith,
How are you doing? As you know, I am currently traveling through South America. I came across a unique business opportunity that I thought you might be interested in. They use a unique process of doing business here in Suriname and it reminded me of some of the work we did on the ABC project. I thought that this might be able to help you all improve the process.
Anyway, I hope all is well. Take Care
You are essentially adding value to a company without even being there. Win-win for them, they won’t forget you.
Tip 7: Create a following – This could be a great way to keep in touch with others and let them know what you are up to. You can maintain a blog, or a page, with quick updates about your adventures. It might be possible that people will get encouraged by you or that you will leave more of an impression for being bold. Usually a good thing in professional circles. You can use methods like social media above, or other ways as you see fit.
Tip 8: Don’t forget professionalism – One major thing that you must not forget in this process is to maintain professionalism when traveling. Remember that as people are following you, they are also seeing what you are doing. No one normal should ever fault you for having a few beers or indulging in a local tradition, but an image can tell a lot or at least make someone’s mind wander.
Some other creative ideas:
- Be more personal. Send handwritten postcards, letting people know that you are thinking about them and updating them on where you are. Even in the digital age, nothing beats an old-fashioned letter.
- Take a company logo with you. This depends if you are looking to stay with a particular company or how long you know it. Here is an idea, take a logo of the company with you and take a mirage of pictures with the logo in different exotic locales. They might like the publicity and/or creativity
- Visit other locations. If you company is international, check out some of their other locations (if you are welcome of course). You can develop your network and worth by meeting new people in your industry. If you work for ABC company and they have an office in country D, then get in contact with the regional manager and let them know who you are. Ask them to lunch, learn about how your company operates in a foreign land.
- Travel Smart. Develop your skills along the way. Do more than just travel and site-see. Consider volunteering, interning, working, or living somewhere for a while so that you can add to your résumé or CV.
Glad to have you as a reader! You are the reason that I write!
What are your thoughts?
How do you maintain your professional network when you travel? What things help you to keep in touch when on the road? Let us hear what you have to say!