A new client was describing her frustratingly long and unproductive job search to me. She said “I had a lot of great meetings a year ago with people who could potentially hire or refer me, although nothing panned out.” I asked what happened to those people and conversations. She said, “I don’t know, we just lost touch.” I told her that was a major part of the reason she had been searching for so long. If she had kept in touch with them, she would probably have gotten the interviews and offers she was looking for long ago.
Being good at networking isn’t just about meeting new people—that’s only half of it. The other half involves keeping in touch. To reap the full benefits of keeping in touch with your network, you need both effective messaging and great contact management.
Optimize your messaging
When you reach out to keep in touch, your goal should be to keep top of mind so if they come across opportunities they will think of you. Make sure, however, that you’re not asking the same people over and over again “have you heard anything?” Many will perceive this as desperation and be turned off, plus it’s not necessary; if you keep in touch using one of the three approaches that follow, they’ll understand your need without you having to ask again:
- Send “additional thoughts” to follow up on a prior meeting. For example, you might start off your email with something like, “I’ve been thinking about our conversation last month and have a couple of other ideas for you about the reorganization you’re contemplating…”
- Send them a link to something interesting, as in, “I read this article and immediately thought of you…” Then update them on your search. Note: don’t send them a link to something in which they would not be interested, as you’ll waste their time and lower their opinion of you.
- If options one and two aren’t viable, simply send an email with the subject line “Hello and update…” or something similar, and update them on your search, to keep top of mind.
Here’s an example of the “hello and update” email:
Subject: Hello and update
Hi Julie, hope things are well with you and that you and your family had a great Hawaii vacation. Thanks again for meeting with me last month!
Thought I would update you on how things are going with my search as it’s been a while. I’ve met with FinTechCompany, as well as some other FinTech firms. The conversations have been interesting and may result in something down the road. In the meantime, I continue to reach out to companies and people who could hire me for the operations director job target we discussed.
If there is anything I can do for you, including introducing you to people in my LinkedIn network, please don’t hesitate to ask! I look forward to talking with you again soon.
This email accomplishes your main objective: reminding them of your search so that you’re not overlooked when they come across opportunities. Notice this nice touch: “If there’s anything I can do for you, including introducing you to people in my LinkedIn network, please don’t hesitate to ask!” Generously offering to help them goes a long way towards building mutually beneficial relationships.
Also notice what’s not said: “If you hear of anyone looking for an operations director, I would appreciate your letting me know.”
Have a contact management system
You need a contact management system so you remember who to follow up with and when. Otherwise you’ll miss opportunities. In a job search you should be keeping in touch with everyone in your network every three to six weeks.
For most of my clients, a spreadsheet works just fine for their contact management system. If you have access to a professional CRM (“Customer Relationship Management”) system by all means use that. Many inexpensive CRM systems can work; just search for “free CRM” or “small business CRM.”
Whatever system you’re using, make sure you have the following two fields filled in for every person in the system: “Next Action” and “Date of Next Action.”
- Next Action: If there is no next action, even if the next action is simply “update email,” they don’t belong in your database anymore, as they will not be helping you with your search.
- Date of Next Action: This is how you ensure no one gets overlooked in terms of the help they might provide. You’ll always know to whom you should reach out on a given day.
I challenge my clients to add at least 200 contacts to their contact management system. Some say, “200? I only talk to five people regularly!” For the purposes of a job search or career advancement, you want to go way beyond just these few people, as ultimately the job search is a numbers game. Anyone you knew once who might be open to helping you (and you in turn helping them) should be included. Consider your current or recent work colleagues, people you haven’t worked with in many years but you have positive feelings about, old professors or classmates, family, friends, your dentist, your neighbor and so forth. Think broadly about your network. It’s a small world, and you never know who knows someone who can help.
Case in point: my client included her neighbor who she didn’t know well in her contact management spreadsheet. She happened to have her neighbor’s email address so she emailed him to let him know about her job search. Her neighbor responded. It turned out the neighbor’s wife’s brother-in-law’s sister worked for the CFO of a company my client was targeting. This connection ultimately got her an interview.
Remember, you need to build trust-based relationships over time so you’ll want to help each other. Don’t be like a colleague who “thought” he was a great networker. He was looking for a marketing director position, but kept getting referrals to HR from people he met for the first time. They kept referring him to HR because they didn’t want to jeopardize their valuable marketing relationships by referring someone they just met and didn’t really know.SHARE THIS POST