This is the last guest post of my advice series featuring insights from young nonprofit professionals.   Check out the other articles and be sure to subscribe to my blog via email so you never miss a post.

By Guest Blogger Jessica Journey

After graduating from college, figuring out the next steps in your career can be daunting – not to mention exhausting! Searching job boards, requesting informational interviews, drafting cover letters, attending events, calling contacts…

Don’t let your efforts be in vain – invest your time and energy strategically and build your network for the long-term. Take these three steps to cultivate professional relationships with your networking contacts:

Send an email immediately.

  • Most professionals expect quick online communication. As soon as you can get to your smart phone or a computer, send your new contact a friendly message.
  • Keep it simple but personal. Express your gratitude for their time and attention. Be sure to include a specific reference to something you two discussed.
  • BONUS TIP: Still have an old Yahoo or AOL account? It’s time for an update! Get a Gmail account – make the username your name. No numbers in the username. Please.

Follow-up with a handwritten note.

  • Online technology is great, but a handwritten note offers its advantages, too! Your contact will definitely take notice if they receive a small card with a kind note.
  • Especially as young professionals, we need to break down stereotypes about our generation. Sure we enjoy social media, but it’s because we really love people and relationships – a handwritten note shows just that!
  • BONUS TIP: Prepare the envelope with address and stamp before the meeting. That way, you won’t forget to finish the note and drop it in a mailbox. You’ll be so glad that you did!

Connect over social media.

  • The easiest way to keep the conversation going with your new contact is social networking. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – there are plenty of possibilities.
  • Which network depends on you and what networks you’ve decided to leverage for professional purposes. Maybe you use Facebook for your friends and LinkedIn for your career – so, only connect on LinkedIn.
  • BONUS TIP: Make the request personal. For example, replace the default connection message on LinkedIn with your own personal message. Using the standard language just looks lazy. Period.

Implement the three steps with your networking contacts – whether it be after a quick introduction at an event, a one-on-one coffee conversation, or a formal interview. You’ll be glad you did; your career will benefit from this long-term approach!

What other ways do you follow-up with networking contacts? How do you keep the connection alive and the conversation going past the initial meeting? Please leave a comment with your idea!

Guest Blogger Jessica Journey is a nonprofit professional, thriving in the Indianapolis community. She has more than six years of experience in fundraising and philanthropy. Follow @Jessica_Journey on Twitter and read her blog at www.jessicajourney.com