You went to a networking event, you had great conversations with a dozen people and you traded business cards. Your job is done, right? Absolutely not. That was just step one!

Successful networking is so much more than gathering business cards. Your goal is to build relationships over an extended period of time, which is why networking follow-up is essential. Begin by sending a follow-up email within 48 hours.

In my experience as an executive recruiter, I’ve seen all sorts of follow-up emails and here is what works.

Put Yourself Into Context
Executives and hiring managers go to many networking events and are regularly meeting people so don’t assume he or she will remember who you are immediately. Open up by saying it was nice to meet at XYZ event and include the name of the event in the email subject line.

Then reference details of your conversation. Aim to keep the tone personable and as unrelated to work as possible. You want to connect on a human level. Although your long-term goal may be a job, that’s not what the initial contact should be about.

I recommend jotting notes on the back of the person’s business card right after the conversation so you have details to refer back to.

Offer Favors Instead of Requesting Them
The most important networking advice for professionals can sometimes be counterintuitive but here it is: Giving, not receiving, is the key to building a strong network. A relationship needs to go both ways. Going back to the details of your initial conversation, what would that person appreciate? If you mentioned a fascinating book then offer up the title and author. If you know someone who would be a great contact then offer to make the introduction.

By being helpful, you’re encouraging him or her to want to return the favor and setting the stage for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Touch Base Regularly
Of course, your job isn’t done after the follow-up email. A request to connect on LinkedIn (stay away from Facebook which is more personal) with a personalized note is always a great way to start. Afterwards, you don’t want to be overeager but you do want to stay top of mind. To achieve this, limit yourself to a contact only every one to two months and never touch base without a reason. Check in on whether they will be attending an industry event you’re going to. Share a white paper that might be of particular interest.

Every contact with the new member of your professional network should be positive, professional, personable and deepen the relationship.

What follow-up strategies have worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments.