15 minutes a week. You can spare that, right?
If so, you can use that tiny amount of time each week to connect with people in your network and foster existing relationships.
Now, if you have a large network—and no matter how you’re tempted to answer that, it’s probably bigger than you think—you might think the task of keeping up with everyone when it’s not totally necessary is daunting, if not impossible.
But the name of the game is not to see how many of your LinkedIn contacts you can message in 15 minutes every Tuesday morning. It’s not to alphabetically go through the list of anyone and everyone you’ve ever come across in your professional life. Instead it’s to somewhat naturally, but effort-fully maintain these connections. Here’s how to do it.
Throughout the week, as you scroll through your social media feeds and discover that this person is doing that and that person is promoting this new thing, keep a list of items that catch your eye.
Last week, for example, I saw that a former colleague who once provided me with a job reference was moving out of the city. I was curious if she was staying in her current role or if she had another plan.
In the course of that same workweek, I read an article by a woman I met at on a PR trip years ago. We’d barely been in touch since, and I liked the piece so much that I wanted to let her know. I also discovered that a freelance writer who used to do work for me was a Mets’ fan, one of my own.
So I set aside some time one evening and in one fell swoop, I contacted all three of them. I wasn’t asking for a favor, and I wasn’t hoping to gain anything for my own advancement. Instead I said to each one:
Nate, where are you guys off to? Are you going to be staying in your role and working remotely? Hope you guys love Nashville—I’ve heard only wonderful things.
Sarah! Is that your byline on the Bon Appétit B.O.T.N. interview with Jenna Lyons? That is so cool—my favorite part of each issue. Looks like things are going well for you, if that’s any indication…
Cindy, I had no idea you were a Mets’ fan. I love this [Instagram post] so, so much.
And this, my friends, is networking at its finest. It’s almost even networking disguised. Each person wrote back or responded via social media saying that it was great to hear from me. Now suddenly, we were back in touch—it’s that easy.
This week, as you’re looking through social media, keep an eye out. Maybe you come across an initiative a former colleague is promoting on Facebook. Perhaps you notice that an old intern secured a full-time job in production, her dream industry. You see that a member of your graduating class quit the law firm she was working at and started a small company.
Suddenly your mindless habit of endless scrolling has newfound purpose. If nothing else, by viewing the platforms in this slightly modified light, you’ll realize how many people you’ve been “meaning to say hi” to for way too long.
Do this for enough weeks in row and eventually networking will stop feeling like this urgent thing you do when you need something (a job, reference, introduction) and more like a natural part of your weekly routine. Maybe even a fun one to boot.
Photo of man looking at social media courtesy of Xavier Arnau/Getty Images.