Long Distance Relationship

Long Distance Relationship

March 27, 2012

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to reconnect with a dear friend and former colleague who was visiting Kansas City.  A few years ago, she moved to Boulder with her family, took a new job and is absolutely killing it!  Though we don’t talk often, she is someone who I greatly admire, I am always energized by our conversations and it is a blast to catch up with her.  I love hearing what she is doing both personally and professionally and I find that our information exchanges are consistently robust, interesting and we tend to run out of time before we run out of topics.  It is easy to pick up right back where we left things irrespective of the time that has passed between meetings, phone calls, texts, whatever. 

It got me to thinking, how does one effectively build and maintain a long distance relationship?  That is – a professional relationship when weeks, months, years may go by between touch points.

Interestingly, just as I was contemplating this deep topic, I had the honor of speaking with a group of about 15 University of Kansas Hillel students about networking.  One brave soul asked me how she could meet networking contacts in New York City when she was going to school in Lawrence, Kansas, and is originally from Dallas, Texas.  Wow – Another opportunity to contemplate building relationships across the miles.

Let’s face it:  It can be tough to build nationwide – let alone, global, relationships.  One never wants to be outta-sight-outta-mind.  However, in today’s digital world, it has also never been easier to keep up with one another city to city.  A few ideas from my arsenal:

  1. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.  LinkedIn, from my perspective, is one of the easiest ways to build your professional network.  Even with just a few primary or direct contacts, you suddenly have access to tons (could be millions!) of secondary and tertiary contacts.  Plus, by joining a few selectively chosen groups on LinkedIn, you will expand your network exponentially. 
  2. Next, if you haven’t yet embraced Twitter, now is the time.  I know, I know, who on earth will care what is going on with you in 160 characters or fewer?  You’d be surprised.  Plus, it is a really easy way to share information about what you are up to, what’s on your mind, what you care about, links to articles of interest, etc. on a fairly regular – or irregular – basis.  And, believe me, your network is keeping up with Twitter, too.  If you connect with them and even loosely keep up with their “tweets,” you will know what they are up to, what’s on their mind, what they care about, links articles of interest, etc.  Easy.
  3. It’s good to keep in touch when you can, but don’t worry too much if it has been months or even years!  Life happens, people get busy – everyone is busy.  Your contacts will appreciate hearing from you when you get a moment.  In turn, please be gracious and understanding when you suddenly hear from an old colleague out of the blue after a number of years.  You contact them when you can and/or need them…. They contact you when they can and/or need you.  Quid pro quo.
  4. Need a contact in NYC when you live in Lawrence and are from Dallas?  Ask a local contact to put you in touch with his/her contact in NYC… or his or her contact in Phoenix who has the perfect contact in NYC.  People helping people to connect to people eliminates distance and helps to flatten the world, making it more accessible – wherever people may reside.
  5. Of course, it’s good to keep up with your contacts all over the world. Whether you use social networking, phone calls, emails, texting, hand written notes and greeting cards or some other medium, reach out, let your contacts know what you’re up to, that you’re thinking of them and that you want to know what they are up to, too. 

Those are a few of my ideas for long distance networking.  So, tell me, how do you build and maintain your global network?  I would value your input and look forward to sharing it with other readers.