Whether at the beginning of your career or the end, looking for a job or happy where you are, keeping contacts healthy should be a top priority. After all, you could be like me—suddenly laid off months into the new year with no preparation and inadequately maintained contacts—and struggle, and flail, and curse yourself for not preparing for the worst.
Or, you could simply be one of those pro-active go-getters, the kind of person who runs every morning, totally owns both their work- and their personal lives, and just likes to be on top of things. Or, you could be realistic, knowing that you never know when or why you’ll need your contacts. Any way you slice it, keeping your contacts healthy is a must.
But what, exactly, is “contact health”?
It’s a fair question, and really one that, I think, is often misunderstood. Most people seem to think that contact health is either 1) making sure all of your contacts are up-to-date, or 2) making sure that you’re active with your contacts. The truth, though, is that contact health includes both of these, and quite a bit more. Strong contacts are up-to-date and active, sure, but more than that, they’re actually healthy, strong, durable, and persisting. Confused yet? You shouldn’t be.
Healthy contacts are achieved by making sure that you have a number of ducks in a row. Some are easier to align that others and, at points, it may feel like you have a new full-time job, but getting your contacts where they need to be sets you up to succeed down the line when you really need it.
Keeping contacts healthy
- Keep your contacts up-to-date: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it sure is easier said than done. At an average of 2 minutes per contact spend updating, and a decay rate of upwards of 30% of your 1000 (on average) contacts, you could watch this entire Nyan Cat video in the time it’d take to complete these updates. Your best bet will be to find a tool like CircleBack that keeps your contacts up-to-date for you. This is easily the most important strategy for maintaining contact health (after all, how can you interact with others if you can’t reach them), and also the most time consuming.
- Make sure you’re active with your network: Again, I hate to state the obvious, but if you’re just collecting business cards, loading them into your address book / LinkedIn page, and calling it a day, your network is suffering. Contacts are like any other part of your life; they need attention to flourish. The easiest way to handle this is by scheduling follow-up days on your calendars in six-month intervals, and using this time to reach out to contacts you want to keep. Simply dropping them a note will keep them fresh in your mind and ensure your network is active.
- Continuously pursue influential contacts: Sadly, connecting with your mail carrier on Facebook won’t do much to boost the health of your contacts. Yes, you now “know” him/her, and he/she is much more easily accessible to you, but for your network and your needs, not so much. Instead, it’s useful to connect with people further along than you, people you meet at conferences, through social media, and the like. Not only are these people more likely to be relevant to your industry and future career; they’re also active, visible, and are often industry influencers.
- Use Twitter to connect with thought leaders: Though in some ways an extension of the last, connecting with thought-leaders on Twitter deserves its own mention on the list because of how powerful it is. With Twitter, you have a unique chance to build professional relationships with people that you—straight up—don’t know. Ever dream of having a 1-to-1 with Mark Benihoff? Twitter is your best bet. And, in some ways, it really is as simple as following influencers, tweeting nice things at them and then, once they follow you too (which they likely will, eventually) sending them a direct message. But don’t be spammy in your DM. If you use this channel to sell something right off the bat, you’ll kill this connect in no time.
- Always grow your network: Though it will, eventually, become difficult staying in contact communication with everyone in your network, keep going because, just like in business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Hit up industry events and conferences, go to meet ups, trawl LinkedIn (while being careful you don’t go to LinkedIn Jail), do whatever it takes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you should always be growing your network like your career depends on it. Because, realistically, it does.
Maintaining contact health can be quite a challenge in just how time consuming it really can be. But fear not; there’re always smart tools that’ll help you do the job. When attempting to grow contact health, be sure you’re focusing on keeping contacts up-to-date and active, and that you’re consistently growing your network (and stuffing it full of influential people).
Don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone for this. It’s worth it.
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