I believe in the power of networking. I’ve seen it play a huge role throughout my career. Whether securing my first job, landing speaking gigs, gaining clients, or establishing fruitful business partnerships, so many of the quality opportunities that have arisen in my life resulted from a lead or idea that arose from a contact in my professional network. Keeping your professional network “warm” is critical to ensuring your network is robust and responsive when you need to tap into it.
Why keep your professional network “warm” you may ask? It’s the same reason why you thaw food out from the freezer before you begin cooking it. It’s easier to go from warm to hot than from frozen to hot. Can you think people in your life who only contact you when they need something from you? I don’t know about you, but I get a very bad taste in my mouth if I only hear from someone when they need a favour from me. Therefore, as counterintuitive as it may seem, staying in contact with those in your network on a regular basis, especially when you don’t need something from them, is as important if not more important that reaching out when do need help with something.
Here are three easy routines you can follow to keep your network warm. Doing each of these does take time, but think of it as an investment into fortifying the strength of your network so that when you do need a little bit of assistance, contacts in your network will be primed and ready to lend a hand if they can.
1) Leverage LinkedIn network updates
One of the challenges of reaching out, unsolicited to a contact, is to come up with a reason to reach out. LinkedIn email updates provide you with a daily digest of what people in your network are doing including recent promotions, job changes, and even birthdays. I scan this each morning and spend a few minutes dropping a quick a note to each person who shows up in my update, congratulating them or wishing them well in their new role. I also include a couple brief updates from my end. If you’re not receiving these emails each day, I’d recommend you go into your LinkedIn settings to subscribe. More instructions on this can be found at the LinkedIn Help Center.
2) Update recruiter contacts quarterly
As you progress in your career, recruiters may play a more prominent role in your career, so I’d encourage you to stay in touch with a few trusted ones on a regular basis, even if you’re not actively seeking a new role. You can set a quarterly reminder in whatever calendar program you use, then use that opportunity to send a quick email to each one, providing an update on your current situation and a couple key accomplishments at work since your last contact. And if you don’t have any marketing recruiter contacts, I’d encourage you to begin establishing relationships with at least a couple.
3) Reconnect based on upcoming events
At the start of each quarter, I take an hour or so to populate my calendar with some of the major marketing industry events I either attended or would like to attend this year. For example, I attended the Drum Live event last summer. After these sorts of annual events, I’ll put a little reminder in my calendar 10 months later to ensure reconnect with those people I met last year or call out the event to contacts of mine who may enjoy attending. Taking an event-centric approach to keeping your network warm gives you an understandable reason to reconnect, and if you do plan to attend the event again, it gives you an opportunity to schedule a 1-on-1 catch up in person right before or after the event.
As a marketer who must be able to work across functions, external partners, and various agencies, your contacts and relationships will play a more and more vital role in your effectiveness as a professional. Remember, building and maintaining your network takes time, effort, and work. The payoff can be substantial, so I’d encourage you make the daily investment so your network is solidly in place if and when you ever need it.
What are some ways you maintain your professional network? I’d welcome your insights, additional perspectives, and tips you would like to share.
Joseph Liu is a personal branding & career consultant, speaker, and host of the Career Relaunch Podcast. He specialises in helping professionals and business owners build & relaunch their personal brands, leveraging 10 years of international brand management & marketing experience on brands including Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Puds, and Häagen-Dazs. Joseph has been a featured speaker at TEDx and MarketingWeek Live. He was awarded his Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential from the International Coach Federation, MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, and Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Northwestern University.