- Michael Thompson
Networking from home has become a seriously valuable skill
About a month into the pandemic, I received a flurry of emails that boiled down to this: Half of my work contracts were being cut. At first, I was frantic. But quickly, I was able to replace the lost contracts with new ones. How? I owe it all to a practice I’ve been doing for the last three years.
Every week, no matter what I have going on, I reach out to one new person who is doing something I think is cool and request a chance to talk to them on the phone. I know this might sound terrifying — trust me, as a guy who grew up with social anxiety, I get it. But the benefits have been incredible: After making more than 200 of these calls, I’ve created a vast network of people to share ideas and opportunities with.
This past month alone, I’ve spoken with the former chief of human resources at Apple, a professor of entrepreneurship at Duke University, a man whose devastating personal loss prompted him to quit his job in investment banking and become a leader in the mindfulness space, and another man who is completely paralyzed due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and yet writes uplifting articles with his eyes. Each of these phone calls has led to collaborations or commitments to remain in touch. And each of these people, with their story, has inspired me in my own work.
Here are some tips for starting your own phone-call-making practice:
- Reach out to people you already have weak ties with. Studies show that our weak ties can help us in our careers even more than our strong ties. This is because our closest friends usually travel in the same social circles as we do whereas our acquaintances present us with new ideas, contacts, and possibilities. Maybe there are some folks you’ve been chatting with on social media. Or you might rekindle connections with old friends you’ve fallen out of contact with. Don’t get hung up on titles and only chase big names. You’re much better served by first connecting with people who are around the same rung as you.
- Use referrals to meet new people. Ask your friends and acquaintances if there is anyone they recommend getting to know and offer them the same opportunity. I don’t know about you, but this sounds much better than approaching strangers at a networking event and starting from zero.
- Send your prospective phone-call partners a short pitch that explains who you are and why they should care. You’ll be surprised how effective these words can be: “If you need a break one day, let me know if you’d like to talk. I’d love to see if there’s a way we can help each other as it looks like we are into the same things.”
- Don’t take it personally if someone says no. Not everyone has the time or mental bandwidth for an optional phone call.
We’re talking about an hour-per-week investment to expand your world by learning about someone else’s. Through these calls, you’ll discover what is important to other people while getting a chance to share your own values and goals. The best part? You’ll begin to look at strangers differently and see that the world is full of incredibly talented and kind people. And if you ever find yourself in need, these people might just be there to help you.