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4 Seriously Simple Ways to Drive Your Network and Career Forward from Home


“Marketing hack: Make a product that people need. 

PR hack: Do something newsworthy.

Writing hack: Write every day for years.

Learning hack: Read a book. When finished, read another. 

Investing hack: Give compounding the decades it requires. 

Savings hack: Lower your ego and live below your means.

Career hack: Work harder than is expected of you, and be nice to people.

Organization hack: Clean up your mess.

Fundraising hack: Make a product lots of people will pay for with decent or better margins.

Scale-to-a-million-users hack: Make a product a million people need.

Making college more affordable hack: Go to an in-state public school and work full time.”

I like Robert Glazer’s book — Friday Forward: Inspiration & Motivation to End Your Week Stronger Than It Started. It’s fun. It’s also got some really good points in it. This is particularly true of the chapter “Life Hack” where he shares the words above courtesy of Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund. 

When it comes to career success, the best shortcut is not to look for shortcuts as the last thing you want to do is build your future on a rocky foundation. 

That being said, one thing I noticed in Morgan’s message is he didn’t provide any “hacks” for how to build and maintain an effective network that helps you create consistent opportunities.

The suggestions below aren’t “hacks” perse, but rather proven time-effective actions to drive your network, and therefore your career, forward. 

The best part is, for the five listed below, you don’t even need to leave your house which make them the perfect solution to better navigate 2021 and beyond.

“If your network isn’t providing you with two to three solid opportunities a year, you either need to change your attitude or build a new network.” — A very wise man

1. Use email the right way to connect with influential people

COVID has turned the way we work upside down. But amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is for certain: remote working in some form or another is here to stay. That means if you want to create opportunities, you’ll need to figure out a system that allows you to effectively build strong connections. 

I’ve been reaching out and getting on calls with people whose work I admire week in and week out for three years now. In the process, I’ve discovered a very simple recipe that not only gets your measure read, but also wins a reply.

  • Write the words — “Thank you for X” in the subject line (it’s hard not to open a message when you’re being appreciated). 
  • Let the person know in one sentence who you are and why they should care (mentioning a shared connect works well, as does a common interest or goal). 
  • Mention something about their work that most people would miss while showing them how it helped you reach a goal or improve your life (aka —  actually thanking them for something). 
  • Make your “ask” memorable — my friend Aaron Dinin, PhD, professor of Entrepreneurship at Duke, is a fan of asking people to talk over a milkshake. Identify an effective yet memorable ask — that’s true to you —  and rinse and repeat with each new person you want to meet. 

For example — 

“Hello John, my name’s Michael Thompson and I’m a career coach and writer for Business Insider who’s also based out of Barcelona (mention shared contact if applicable). 

Your advice in your book about making your ask memorable resulted in me doing a collaboration with a woman whose work I greatly admire and asking her to share a virtual peach served as the tipping point. 

I leave Wednesdays wide open for calls and if you’ve got twenty minutes over the next month, I’d love to ask you a few questions about effective online networking for an article I’m working on. 

Thank you for doing all that you do — Michael.”

Practice this skill. Mix things up until you’ve identified a proven message that gets results in the least amount of words possible. Keep it to three to five sentences. 

If you’re just starting out in your career and don’t feel like you have much to offer, get over it and lean into kindness and curiosity as unless you’re reaching out to a big name, you may be surprised by how many people take time out of their days to help other people advance in their careers. 

Just keep in mind that Tim Ferriss probably isn’t going to save you. So start smart by reaching out to people in your immediate network or one layer out to grow out your network while building up your confidence. 

My dad got it right — 

“The fastest way to get what you want is by getting to know the people who already have it!” 

2. Join a tight-knit online mastermind group 

With so many people working from home, this is a no-brainer. I started an online Slack group with coaches and writers a few years ago when I barely had an online footprint. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I was able to quit my job and follow my dreams shortly thereafter. 

If you want to learn about opportunities, it sure helps if you’ve got additional eyes and ears looking and listening out for you. Plus, when it comes to any questions or concerns about your work, instead of spending the day wallowing in self-doubt, you’ve got a sounding board a few keystrokes away. 

Begin by asking a few of your friends to share a space together to bat around ideas and ask each of them to invite one or two of their friends if you can’t find an established group out of the thousands that already exist online.

If Slack, isn’t your thing, you can even simplify it by starting an email chain with half a dozen people where you send a weekly update with questions and suggestions and hop on a monthly group call. 

It’s hard to walk away from the words — 

“A few friends and I have created a space to help each other share ideas and improve our work to better navigate the new world and we’d love for you to join!”

3. Use email the right way to stay top of mind with diverse groups of people

I recently wrote an article that was featured on this very platform and syndicated widely in places like Business Insider and Apple News entitled — “The 7 Emails You Should Send Every week to Get Ahead in Your Career.” 

In short — 

  • Send an email thanking someone.
  • Send an email to someone you admire.
  • Send an email lifting someone up.
  • Send an email to your boss letting them know where you are.
  • Send an email to yourself letting yourself know where you are.
  • Send an email to someone you recently met.
  • Send an email to an old friend.

A big part of me thinks that the email recipe combined with its’ follow-up — “The 5 Phone Calls You Should Make Each Week to Get Ahead in Your Career” —  may very well be the key to your future success. 

Instead of going in blind to networking events, these simple frameworks allow you to build relationships with the people you actually want to know while helping you maintain the relationships you already have in a very time-effective manner. 

Over one billion emails are sent each day. Most of them are awful. Learn how to write emails people want to read. It’s such an easy way to stand out. 

At a minimum, at least send one thanking someone each week. As human beings, we all like different things. But very few people don’t like being appreciated. 

4. Create a team of trusted advisors

I love mastermind groups. Something that’s just as valuable and perfect if you’re short on time though is having an advisory board consisting of three or five people where each month you go over your challenges and the big decisions you’re facing.

Not only will getting various perspectives help you to better identify the pros and cons of each decision in front of you while strengthening your relationships with the other members. But the mere fact that at the end of each month you have a trusted group of people to help clarify your thoughts and feelings has the potential to free up a ton of headspace so you can better focus on the work in front of you.

Companies have an advisory board. It only makes sense that you do too.

Just do yourself a favor and elect people who see things differently than you. 

No matter how clever you think you are, as human beings, we miss stuff and varying perspectives can help you to better protect against your blind spots.

Effectively network in 2021 in four sentences

When it comes to career success, every Tom, Dick, and Melinda loves to say the most adaptable people win. But one thing they fail to mention is being adaptable is not something you need to do alone. In fact, the most successful people I know are adaptable for the simple fact they have adaptable friends.

  • Learn how to effectively get to know influential people you admire. That one skill — that you can learn in a few days with focused practice — will save you loads of time in the future and has the potential to result in a consistent stream of opportunities. 
  • Join an online mastermind group to share ideas and opportunities. Most people say that if you make one good connection at a networking event that the time investment was worth it. Mastermind groups, however, give you instant access to a few dozen people playing in and around your sandbox. 
  • Set up an easy system that allows you to stay top-of-mind. Consistent touchpoints lead to connections that last. Five minutes a day. Be proactive in staying in contact with people. 
  • Go deep by recruiting a few people to form an online advisory board. We’re talking about an hour a month to create a bond with a select number of people that’s tough to break. 

The world has changed. If you think you can navigate the uncertainty in front of us alone, you will get left behind. The beauty of the proven suggestions above is they aren’t even hard. We’re talking about a few emails, Slack messages, and phone or video calls. 

The strongest communities created our past. 

The strongest communities will also build our future.