The amount of follow up to do with recruiters and networking contacts is always a tough call.
It is hard not to feel like a pest when you call. (After all, you ARE being a pest.)
However, if you aren’t persistent and keep in touch with those who might be in a position to help you on the day (or within a reasonable time frame) that something of interest hits their radar screen, the odds of THEM remembering to call YOU is very small. So, it unfortunately pays to be a pest.
The trick is to be a pest without appearing to be one.
When you call it is important that you have some news to share. If you follow the practice of reconnecting with your network on about a 6 week basis, enough water should have flowed under the bridge that you should have news of some kind to share.
Stories about “the ones that got away”, family news if you know them particularly well, or even current events (and, there is certainly too much of that right now), will all suffice as a reason to pick up the phone.
Above all, be cheerful. No one ever calls back a drone, or even wants to speak to one. “Hey, this is Matt Bud!! How ya doing.” (Use your own name, of course.) There has to be the sound of energy in your voice or your odds of ever even getting through again will go way down.
As far as the search community is concerned, it really doesn’t make much sense for recruiters to talk to you unless they have an active search for which you are a perfect match. While calling them up may not yield much in the way of active searches, it may give you the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation in which you can present details of your background. Frequently, they do pick up the phone and have conversations. Just be mindful of their time.
Learn to be innovative about how you ask for help. While most folks can make introductions for you, very few actually know about open jobs. Asking for contacts to share knowledge of open jobs is one of the great “conversation stoppers”.
Asking good questions is a good way to keep a conversation going, or to get it started. Ask how their firm is doing. There certainly are enough problems out in the world, and if you are speaking with network contacts you know reasonably well, they may welcome the opportunity to “dump on you” given your broad shoulders.
Give them the opportunity. It will loosen them up and relax them. They need to relieve their tension as much as you do.
And who knows? If you can get them chattering, you might even get some information or business contacts that can actually help you in your search.