Networking Like It's 1999
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
For me, 2019 couldn't have come soon enough. Last summer, I learned of a looming leadership change at my anchor client and I could see the writing on the wall: The healthcare magazine where I served as managing editor would soon end. In fall 2018, my family faced a perfect storm of health issues. My husband, my daughter, and I all landed in the hospital within weeks of each other with health problems that required surgical intervention (from minor to major) and, in my daughter’s case, ongoing treatment. I couldn't travel and, perhaps needless to say, my work suffered.
So now it’s 2019 and things have settled down. I’m networking again like it’s 1999--the first full year I started my writing business. I’m not just reaching out to contacts I know well, but to many others I know only loosely, or not at all, because they work for organizations that interest me. Admittedly, it feels a little like starting over. It’s humbling, sometimes frustrating, but also rewarding and rejuvenating. (It’s probably not unlike dating after a divorce.)
Whether you’re just starting out or trying to recover from a dry spell after long-term, success, here are some lessons I’ve learned so far:
(1) Most people will not email you or call you back. That’s OK. I get it. People are busier than ever, and I understand their fear that I’ll never leave them alone if they respond. My rate of response right now is about one reply for every ten to 12 inquiries. Sometimes I follow up with a LinkedIn request to the non-responders and often they accept, which feels like some progress.
(2) When people do respond, it can be great fun. Meeting new people or reconnecting with people from my past, even over the phone or via videoconference, is reinvigorating. So far I have landed three new jobs this way and made two connections that I believe will lead to new work at some point. When you feel ignored, try to think of the people who haven’t ignored you. I wrote down a list of all of the long-term clients I landed through a cold call or email—there are more than I imagined!
(3) Keep at it. I’m still not where I was in 2017 in terms of workflow. Given that my rate of response is about 10 percent, and only some of those responses have led to paying work, I know I need to make networking a daily task and not just a Friday afternoon afterthought.
(4) Always respond when someone tries to network with you.When I was the managing editor of a magazine, I received dozens of inquiries from writers and designers looking for work. I always responded with an encouraging note because I remembered how it felt when I was getting started. Being on the other side of these conversations now makes me glad I made that a priority—and I always will. Hey, you never know when someone you helped will be able to help you.