The One Hour Project: Touch Base With Professional And Local Acquaintances

This post is part of The One Hour Project, in which you can spend just one hour to put your finances in a better place without a big lifestyle change, through frugality or other financial choices.

About once a month, I spend an hour doing nothing else but touching base with a long list of professional acquaintances as well as with people in my local community. To many, I send them an email asking what’s new, give some basic information about what’s new with me, and usually attempt to start a conversation of some sort, usually in the professional realm but sometimes on other issues. For a small handful, I actually ring them up and say hello – these are ones where the connection is tighter. If they live near me, I’ll usually make a regular effort to stroll over and chat with them when it’s at all possible.

Why do I do this? There are several reasons.

The biggest one is that I like to keep in touch with what all of my professional acquaintances are up to – this simply gives me a good idea of what the trends are in my field in general. I also have what I call “soft” friendships with many of them – we’ll hang out at meetings and share a few drinks or a meal.

I also often get an opportunity to make connections between people – for example, if I know one freelancer with a particular skill and another person who needs help from someone with that skill, I don’t hesitate to connect them. Not only is it mutually beneficial for them, but they both end up with positive feelings towards me – and a greater willingness to help me if I need a hand.

Also, whenever there comes a time where I need something, I suddenly have a large group of people that can help. This can mean a foot in the door for a new job, some professional assistance, or actually in a few cases, some personal support (when we moved, for example).

In other words, doing this is beneficial in many dimensions.

NeverIf this sounds really intriguing and worthwhile to you, I highly recommend the book Never Eat Alone, which I reviewed in detail a while back. It describes why connecting with people is so important and provides a tremendous amount of guidance on how to get started, even for a relatively anti-social person like me (actually, asocial is probably a better word).

So how do I get started? Here’s what you do.

First, make a long list of all of your professional acquaintances, as well as community leaders you know. I usually just collect names, email addresses, perhaps some additional contact info, and a few little pieces of information as a reminder of who they are, and I keep them in a Word document.

Then, contact each of them individually. I find that emails work well for this, but don’t just send a blanket form letter. Actually write to each person. You can reuse elements if you’d like, but the point is to send something distinct and individual to each person you want to touch base with.

When you start getting responses, respond sensibly and also look for potential connections you can make. You might be surprised at what starts happening when you do this – and do it every once in a while over time. If nothing else, it will help your career, often in ways you don’t expect.

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  1. Jason Alba says:

    Trent, as you know, this topic of this post is at the center of my business. I was a general manager of a software company and was laid off in January of 2006. I was not a networker, and had no interest in playing catch-up in the networking scene.

    Never Eat Alone changed my entire outlook on networking (or, building relationships), and I took a totally different approach to it. Now I love to meet people and nurture relationships, trying to give where I could. As a job seeker, the biggest thing I had to “give” was my other connections – so when I met someone that would benefit from knowing someone else, I would hook them up. You are right, this was very beneficial in ways that I wouldn’t know.

    Your Word document system obviously works for me. Since I came from 10 years of software (and software development) I wanted something quite a bit more powerful – taking CRM ideas, Keith Ferrazzi ideas, etc. I developed a personal system to help manage all of the network contacts, as well as track target companies, and lots of other things that career experts tell us to do. For those that have outgrown the Word or Excel solutions, I encourage you to get a free account on my website, JibberJobber.com.

    My two cents :)

    Jason Alba
    CEO – http://www.JibberJobber.com

  2. dong says:

    For some people networking like this comes naturally. For others like myself, it’s very difficult. It’s funny because I’m actually a very social person, and network on friendly social basis very well, but when it comes to professionally, I do a piss poor job. But then again maybe that’s because I’m not in the right career. Who knows…

  3. Brip Blap says:

    I don’t know how many people will comment on this, but out of the tips in The One Hour Project so far, this probably has the best potential for long-term impact. You can only be so frugal (if you make 100 dollars, you can’t save more than that), but your income potential is limitless. Networking is the best way to increase your salary, promote your business, etc. Good advice.

  4. SavingWithMe says:

    Another way to do this is to maintain an updated LinkedIn.com page for yourself. Every couple of weeks I will log in and add a little information to my page or try and see who I know or have worked with that has developed a page. Often times I will send invites to coworkers and former coworkers so we can all stay in contact. In todays corporate world a LinkedIn.com account is becoming a necessity making networking that much easier. Obviously traditional face to face networking is very important and never to be substituted.

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