4 Ways to Keep Your Network From Going Cold
The months-long pandemic has made it difficult to keep professional relationships intact. How to keep them warm—without being annoying.
After having a great conversation with a sociology professor who worked on similar issues of race and identity, Samantha was excited to move forward with their tentative plan to chat once a month to stay apprised of relevant developments in their field. So when the professor later tepidly responded, “Thanks for circling back, I need to postpone our talk,” Samantha felt a bit lost as to what to do next. How could she keep her contact “warm” without becoming a pest?
The scenario is one that many professionals are finding themselves in as companies and workers continue to take on a wait-and-see mindset. With the pandemic upending traditional ways of networking, the prospect of a network going cold is all the more realistic. Add in the “Zoom fatigue” phenomenon that’s setting in and the continued months of juggling family and work obligations at home, and it’s no wonder that many people haven’t kept in touch with their professional friends.
But, as we all know, networking is crucial for our careers. According to Korn Ferry studies, about 80% of people say their current job came from a referral or connection from someone they know. Here are some ways to warm up your network if it’s becoming a bit tepid.
Set up a ramp-up schedule.
If you haven’t been networking for a while, a good way to ease back in is by setting realistic goals. You can start small by scheduling one phone call or emailing two people each week, and then build up to several hours of networking each week. The key is to take micro-steps to establish a habit that’s doable so you don’t abandon your goal.
Keep track of personal details.
One of the best ways to create an authentic relationship is to go beyond shop talk. Oftentimes, this happens organically anyway at the beginning of the conversation; you ask about the weather, how you’re coping amid the pandemic, etc. But most people write off these icebreakers when, in fact, they’re crucial to keep track of. “It will help you follow up, because the next time you reach out you can ask how the person’s new hobby of ocean swimming is going or send the person an article related to what you discussed,” says Val Olson, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach.
Join a professional book club.
While in-person events for professional associations may be on hold, a great way to meet folks in your industry virtually is by joining a book club. For one, it puts the I-help-you-you-help-me pretense of networking on the back burner because you’re all rallying around topics of interest, Olson says. It also creates a more egalitarian approach to getting to know people at all industry levels; a CEO in the club is on the same level as a junior manager, creating new avenues for dialogue.
Try a social media or email blast.
This tip is certainly a bit controversial. On the one hand, as mentioned above, the more personalized you can be in networking, the better. But there are some circumstances where an email to a larger group or putting something on LinkedIn or Facebook could work. Olson recently had a client who was going to be laid off soon. So she sent out an email to her network with her resume attached to let them know she was on the market. What made her note work, Olson says, is that it was warm, specific, and ended with her own offer to help her contacts out. The email went something like this: Hi Friends, I’m getting back in touch because my position has been eliminated due to COVID-19. I’m seeking another senior-level role at X, Y, or Z companies and also open to other options. I would love your help; can you introduce me to a thought leader in this arena? Hop on a quick phone call? Send me any interesting job posts? More importantly, please let me know if I can be helpful to you. It’s good to have friends in a pandemic. “She threw out a big net, but she was warm and authentic,” Olson says. “Then she followed up to responses with a personal reply.”