Networking. Everybody understands its value, but for many people, it seems like a chore. It puts many of us our of our comfort zone - we know that in some cases, we're talking to people not because we particularly like them (not that we dislike them, we may just be ambivalent), but because they might be helpful to us in the future. Or maybe someone is just a bit introverted, and networking feels uncomfortable.
Houston Chronicle reader blogger Donna Hershfeldt mentions the benefits of staying in touch with colleagues in her Watercooler Confidential blog, telling us that she's one of those lucky people who seems to be able to manage to stay in touch with people forever.
She is lucky; she recommends sending people an email (a real one, that you actually wrote just to them!) once or twice a year. That's good advice, but there are other things you can do.
One that I find helpful is to keep an eye out for things that you think people will find interesting. It's nice to get a "hey, what's up?" message from a past colleague; it's more memorable to get something pointing out an article or blog post or web site that someone thought you'd be interested in. (As long as they were reasonably on the mark.)
And there are, of course, tools. LinkedIn is probably the best known; I've used it, though I'm no power user. I recently learned about Doostang, an invitation-only network; it sounds like a good idea, but I haven't heard any first-person testimonials about it.
How do you stay in touch?