Make Your Network Work for You

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Right now you may be exercising your “social distancing” and that is the right thing to do. Work from home if you can, stay indoors if you must, but keep in touch with your network if you care.

It’s a great time to reconnect with old friends, previous coworkers, and anyone else you haven’t seen or spoken with in a long time. With all curfews and closings limiting our social engagement, we really need to feel that there are others are out there thinking about us.

I know it’s just the beginning of the “don’t shake hands, stay at home, don’t go near anyone” phase, but we might find ourselves quarantined for a few weeks before this all gets back to normal.

So let’s make the best of this time and reconnect, rekindle, and reassure.

In normal times, you schedule time to get out and network at conferences, seminars, industry events, chapter meetings, etc. You grab cards, names, and numbers and bring them back to your office. You enter them into your favorite contact system (if you even bother or remember to do that) and let them get nice and cozy with the other contacts. They sit there idly passing time, beckoning to you for some action, but you resist their siren song.

I mean, you’re busy, right.

You don’t have time to
look over all of those business cards,
let alone actually follow up with them.
But why did you make the effort to
collect them in the first place?

There must have been some good reason. Surely you meant to call on some of these folks to get a foot in the door, broaden your horizon, keep your options open, or some other meaningful reason, right?

Of course there was. You want to leverage some of those folks to help improve your position, increase your earnings, expand your potential, or just make some new friends.

So let’s get to it!

While you’re working from home (or “working remotely” as some people like to say) you’ve got a little extra time in your day — you don’t have a commute, you probably have fewer meetings, and you don’t have people bugging you all day knocking on your door or popping up over the cubicle wall.

You’ve got time to reach out, follow up, and reconnect in the early morning when you would be commuting in, or during your lunch break (holy cow! what a feeling!), or on your drive time home. So many opportunities!

Let’s look at some ways you can optimize the use of your Rolodex. Here are four tips to keep you on the ball and in the game.

  1. Review your old contacts and clear out the ones you haven’t ever contacted if it’s been over a full year. (No need to keep a cluttered closet…plus, they won’t remember you anyway.)
  2. Send an email to everyone whom you’ve met in the last twelve months. Do it now! It will take a little while, but do it anyway. See if you get any nibbles. If you do, be sure to keep in touch on a regular basis. At least monthly. (If these contacts don’t respond after two months of attempts, assume they do not wish to connect.)
  3. Be sure that you have something to offer. Don’t call or email just to say “Hi”. Have a purpose. Forward an interesting, relevant article that they might be interested in or make a virtual introduction to one of your colleagues if you think it will benefit them. Just make sure you don’t look like your trolling. Be honest and be helpful.
  4. Next time you get a card or make a connection, be sure to follow up. And follow up in this fashion. When you meet someone, call or email them the next day, the next week, and the next month. Once started, keep this monthly cadence to build meaningful relationships.

It will make you more responsive, and look like you truly have an interest in this person. If you find yourself mutually connecting more often, congratulations! You win!

Now, you’ve been such a good reader, I’m giving you a bonus tip. This might actually be better than the ones I just prescribed. Seriously.

Bonus! Make it a point to expand your network in the office. You have an opportunity every week to grow within your current organization. And why shouldn’t you? You chose to work there. Now build that career!

You already have lots of contacts there by virtue of proximity and a shared email system. Make the most of this situation. Keep in touch with your direct reports and coworkers by going to lunch once a week with one of them. Invite each of them to connect for the hour to talk about career, development, interests, whatever.

Don’t “waste” this time talking about work. Consider it an opportunity to bond with this person on a more meaningful level.

Do this each week with someone new to keep yourself in touch with all departments and at different levels. You will gain a broader vision of your organization and a deeper connection with many more people than you ever would otherwise.

And now, your Mindful Moment:

A strong network is the foundation to a strong net worth.

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