The old saying goes: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Strike that…it’s not who you know, but how well you know them.
I have a very warm network of over 300 people. This network is solely responsible for my last three jobs (and 100% of my job offers), all of my consulting clients past and present, and numerous invitations to speak, write, and continue to grow my network.
I’ve heard it said that you should spend an additional 5% of your time at work (so about 2 hours each week for most people) looking for your next job. Part of that is keeping your network warm.
How do I maintain such a large network warm? I’ve done four main things to keep my network warm and ready to help me when I need them.
- Quarterly reach outs. Every single quarter I reach out to over 500 people in my network on LinkedIn (above I mention a warm network for 300…about half of my network is still very cold and will be trimmed off over time).I do this in three ways:
- I look up everyone in a city that I am visiting and tell them I am coming, would love to meet up if possible, and perhaps ask for a restaurant recommendation.
- I look up anyone who has changed jobs or got a promotion each week. I congratulate them personally, sometimes with an email, sometimes a hand written note.
- There are 13 weeks in a quarter and 26 letters in the alphabet, so every Tuesday and Thursday I reach out to one letter in the alphabet. The A’s take about 10 minutes while the Q’s take about 30 seconds. But twice a week, every week except holidays, I reach out to 5-30 people in my network. I send a personalized email that simply says hello, wishes them well, tells them how things are for me and my family, and offers help in any way that I can help. The one thing I do not do in this email is ask a question, which might cause them to feel obligated to respond. I get a lot of responses, but I do not want them to feel negatively toward me due to a feeling of obligation.
- Handwritten notes. I wrote about this in depth here so I won’t go into too much detail. Handwrite at least one thank you note or simple correspondence note each week to someone in your network. Find any reason to send one each week. Practice Thank You Thursdays.
- Birthday and Christmas cards. I send a lot of birthday cards and Christmas cards. If you can get the birthdays of those in your network, do it. Keep them in your calendar and send them a card about one week in advance. Start writing your Christmas cards now. I send about half as many as I used to so I usually don’t start until early November, but two years ago I sent over 200 cards. I wrote three or more every day starting in early October. In December I would literally take a break almost every hour to write one. Even if you can only send twenty, do it. Don’t make excuses. You can get ten cards for a dollar. They don’t have to be fancy, just personal. They take one minute to write and another to address and stamp. Surely you can find two hours to send sixty of them this year!
- I help them whenever possible. In the past six months alone, I have set up five people in my network with job interviews and gotten another one a great job. Most of these originated from my quarterly reach outs. They respond letting me know that they are looking and I then connect them with people in my network. Now I have helped two people! Occasionally if I know that someone is looking to hire, I will think hard about who would be a good fit and send an introduction email. Even if it does not pan out (assuming I don’t send them a crazy person), both people will be grateful. There are hundreds of things you could do each week for your network to help them.
There is nothing revolutionary about any of these. You probably knew all of them and maybe have even tried a few of them for a couple of weeks. But most people do just that…they try them rather than make them a habit. The key is to commit to doing these things every week, for a minimum of one hour. That’s all it takes to make a huge impact and keep a warm network of 100+ people. One hour.
One hour to help you land a job in days instead of months. One hour to help you get some great client referrals every few weeks. One hour to help you live a more connected life with people who will inspire you and educate you. The benefits are endless, but you have to get started…and keep going.
It’s all worth it when you need a job and there are people lining up to help. Or when you need an introduction to a prospective client and you have eleven mutual connections, all of whom you have corresponded with in the last year.
All because I took a few minutes to say hello.
What techniques have you used to maintain a warm network? How has it benefited you?