Do you remember when you hit 500+ on LinkedIn? I did. For every aspiring business developer that is the moment you come of age. Boys become men and so on. You can now officially say you. Have a significant network. After hitting 500+, you’ll probably steadily grow your network and, if you’re a real busy bee, by the time you get to your 2nd or 3rd job you might be running in the thousands. Now let me ask you this: how many people in your network do you actually know?
In business we all put a lot of effort into attending events, meeting new people and searching for opportunities. Any decent business business developer should be able to tell you it’s a good idea to follow up on all your new contacts by adding them on LinkedIn and deliver on agreements you made or simply let them know it was a pleasure meeting them and you looking forward to meeting them again in the future. We call it networking.
But what happens to all these people in your network after this is done? My guess is: not all that much. When’s the last time you contacted someone from your network without needing something from them? Before writing this blog, I came to the conclusion that I’ve been linking with people for a couple of years now and slowly letting them become a latent part of my network.
That’s a shame if you ask me. I’ve realized that a great deal of networking is in the little things, standing out a bit if you will. This why I suggest funworking after networking. A systematic approach to keeping touch with your networking for the long term. By doing so, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition with a personal touch and you’ll be remembered for it. And that last part comes in handy when you need support from your network at some point in your career.
Make a selection in your network
I accept almost anyone on LinkedIn who seems decent with the thought in the back of my head that ‘you never know’. If you don’t talk to each other and reach out it becomes pretty daunting to constructively build a network. That doesn’t mean everybody in your network has the same value to you. Try to sort out for yourself who you want to prioritize for this activity because otherwise you’ll be spending far too much time on it.
Your priority list (Inside your industry scope) should look something like this:
Random strangers that want to connect without any probable reason
Set some hours apart every week
There is no need to turn this into a time-consuming activity but it is one of those things you should set some time apart for periodically. If you don’t do this I guarantee you’ll be asking yourself ‘ how much did I do to keep in touch with my network?’ and the answer will be ‘not a whole lot’. How much exactly you want to invest in your network is up to you of course but if you have a pragmatic approach, 2 hours a week should be fine in the long run.
If you have 1500 people in your network, you can probably select 250 that make it to the upper ranks of your priority list. This means that if you spend 5 minutes on a person you could be sharing a personal note with about all of them ( 24 x 5m =2 h) a couple of times a year.
Likes, shares and comments
The easiest way out there to interact with your network by a longshot are the social buttons on LinkedIn.
If someone posts something that’s of interest? Like it.
If someone posts something that so interesting that you feel others might like it too? Share it.
If someone posts somethings that raises questions? Post a comment.
A thing about commenting on Linkedin: the platform will prompt you with suggested comments. Using these might make you come across a something of tool. If your aim to re-connect, you might want to try something more original.
Updates in a person's careers, content that’s being shared, or authentic questions you may have are a great way of starting a conversation. I highly doubt that someone would be react negative towards someone sincerely asking for their opinion or thoughts on specific matter. After all, it’s what networks are for.
Out of the blue messaging
Just sending someone a message without any reason at all might be frowned upon a bit. But if you remember to have connected at a conference and shared some love for soccer, for instance, use this to your advantage. His or her teams win the match of the century? Congratulations are definitely in order.
Keep track of what you’re doing
It’s a good idea to use some kind of free CRM, like HubSpot, to keep notes on some contact data on your network. This will really increase your chances of them thinking: ‘Wow, how nice of this person to remember this and send me a friendly message.’
Additionally, it’s a great way to structure funworking a bit so you’re sure to reach all the contacts that you put on your list. Eventually, you can even use it to track your success rates a bit!
Do not make everything about business. Keeping your network warm means you have to interact at a more personal level. If all you talk about is business then you’ll soon notice that you’ll run out of conversation. Don’t forget that you’re not talking to a robot that goes offline after a working day but has a life besides it that’s probably valued higher than the job.
If you have interesting results from a study or you’ve written an article on a specific topic try to share them with people personally. In fact, why wait until you’re finished? Chances are you might be able to trigger people in your network by asking for a contribution to your work. Offer them some exposure in the thank-you-section if you want to. Asking for contribution might improve the quality of the content in the end.
Keep it short and informal
Don’t waste your shot and your own time by drafting some kind of huge message. If your victim has the intention of reacting to you, a succinct message that explains the why and what of your intentions will do just fine.
A simple message like this should do the trick:
How are things? I remember from our meet at the BIO last year that you are very much involved in CAR T-Cell development. Just wanted to see how you feel about the recent guidelines published by the EMA. How are you guys handling that?
Hope you’re doing well. I remember from the time we last spoke you feel quite strongly about the use of data integrity in pharmaceutical manufacturing. I recently found this article and thought you might enjoy it! Let me know what you think ok?
Heard you guys beat our ass in the last minute last night! I guess I owe you that beer, right? On a completely different note: are you familiar with the GAMP 5 guidelines by any chance?
Have great weekend,
All the other fun things you can think of
Once you get going with ‘funworking’, you’ll probably come up with many more ideas to keep. In touch with your network.
If you’d like to share them just drop them in an email and I’ll add it to the blog!