I listened to the podcast on Building a Network and quickly came to the realization that I had no network. Sure, I had friends and coworkers who I spoke to every now and then, but I had nothing formal in place to make sure that I did not lose touch with any of them. Since I listened to the cast, I have adopted Mark’s “Control/Shift – K” method and I now have a reoccurring appointment for everyone in my network. Keeping in touch with those I already know is easy, I find that it is the building my network past these core relationships is the tough part.

So here is where I need your help:

First, what basis do you use for contacting someone? Do you just say, “Hey, I thought I would just drop you a quick email and see how you are doing.”? That is the way I have been doing it but I am curious to see if that is what everyone else is doing.

Second, how do you add people that you don’t really know? For example, in the podcast Mark mentioned meeting someone from another department in a meeting and inviting him to lunch or coffee. Is that all there is to it? I mean, what reason do I give as to why we should meet? I feel that saying I want to get to know you a little better seems… well… cheesy. I feel like I need to present “what’s in it for them”, you know?

Finally, how do you do the same thing outside your current company? One of the things that has become extremely clear is that I have very few contacts outside my current company. That does not bode well if I leave (or have to leave). What do you say to those who you have met briefly? On what basis do you start a new relationship?

I am sorry if these questions seem sophomoric, but I have found that my network is a liability instead of an asset and I need to change that. Thanks in advance for any help or recommendations.

bffranklin's picture
Training Badge

Congrats on deciding to make a change! Building a network gets much easier with practice, and unlike marathon training, the practice isn't all that bad!

It's always better to create value for the other person. Send a link to an article in The Economist that you thought would interest the other person. Let them know about an upcoming initiative your group has that may impact them (pre-wire!).

That said, building your network is really about building relationships. Relationships are about communication. Good communication starts with a focus on what the other person wants. So meeting new people can be as simple as "I'd like to find out more about what you do over lunch or coffee." Frequency and quality is all it is.

HMac's picture

Not sophomoric at all....

You're on the right track. And don't worry about having too many people in your network to manage. You'll find that most people appreciate the contact, but don't return it (except maybe a tiny email reply). Human nature being what it is, a lot of people on your network won't be motivated at any given time to actively stay in touch...they'll respond when THEY feel the need to network themselves!).

Just stay at it, and you'll find that you're able to separate your network into different "strata" - from those who you really do lunch with a few times a year, to those at the opposite end - who get a quarterly email or voicemail message from you.


jhack's picture

About lunch: just chat. Ask them about their job. Who are their peers, who's their boss, what are they responsible for, what projects are they on, etc.

People love to talk about themselves, and if you ask them to, they'll think you're a great conversationalist. You'll find out a lot about company priorities and initiatives. This is very useful info.

And if your "ping" emails are simple ("...just got back from vacation in Italy...") folks will still appreciate them.


jclishe's picture

I had a similar problem. When I first listened to the networking cast I realized that I had about 800 contacts in Outlook that I'd accumlated over the years, but I had no real network. Some folks I hadn't talked to in years and years and I would have felt somewhat strange pinging them after so long. So I went through my contact list and picked out everyone that I had talked to in the last 2 years, and sent them a very simple email. "Hey Bob, it's been quite awhile since we last spoke, just wanted to check in and see how you're doing."

That's it. Now, I just make it a point to always CTRL-SHIFT-K everyone I meet. I have a recurring task at the end of each week with various weekly review type of tasks, and one of the tasks on my list is to create a keep in touch with task for anyone that I met that week.


dajoines's picture

Thanks for the wonderful feedback! I feel like I am on the right track…

I do have a follow-up question, though. Which way do you think is better to “stay in touch with” someone – email or phone call? I have used both, but I am just curious which one do you feel is more acceptable.

I only use phone calls in the afternoon on the way home when I am trapped in Atlanta traffic and don’t have any new MT podcasts to listen to. :D I feel that calling someone in the middle of the work day for a non-business conversation maybe pushing a little too hard. Especially to someone who is either new to my network or at a higher rank than me. In these cases, I simply send a quick email asking how they are doing and filling them in on my life and career. I end it by asking them to email me back if they get the chance.

Again, thanks in advance for your advice and suggestions.

asteriskrntt1's picture

There is no right or wrong way. Some people prefer emails, some prefer a quick phone call. You will find out who likes what over time.

One thing many of us have to get over is that we are intruding or interrupting by contacting someone and staying in touch. The attitude that needs to be adopted is that we are constantly adding value. It might not be at that moment, it might not be in a year from now.

However, at some point, you will add value. Hopefully over time the "Karma" will come back and people will also be a resource for you.

I can't tell you how many people I have helped land a position or fill a role just because I stayed in touch with so many people. Forget needing an excuse..... the excuse is having a relationship.


jclishe's picture

Something else to consider is social networking sites as a way of keeping in touch, in addition to email and phone. For example, if I see that one of my Facebook contacts posts a new picture or album, then I'll use that as an opportunity to drop them a quick note or comment that say something like "nice picture" or "looks like you had a nice vacation", and then I'll ask a question that's pertinent to the picture.

Then I'll go find the next scheduled recurring 'keep in touch with' task for that person in Outlook, and I'll mark it complete, even if it isn't due for 6 more weeks. Basically I've finished the task 6 weeks ahead of schedule and completing the task in Outlook resets the due date for another 3 months out from today, the day I contacted them on Facebook.

The purpose of the keep in touch with task is simply to stay on your networks' radar, so as far I'm concerned even photo comments or wall posts on Facebook are valid options (assuming that they respond back). If you've generated 2 way dialgoue, then you've kept in touch with them, even if that dialogue is "only" a photo comment.