How To Drive Your Career Forward From the Comfort of Your Couch

4 proven and time-effective ways to grow out a solid network

I like Robert Glazer’s most recent book entitled, “Friday Forward: Inspiration & Motivation to End Your Week Stronger Than It Started.” It’s fun. It’s also got some really good ideas and reminders in it. This is particularly true of the list of “life hacks” he shared courtesy of Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund including:

Marketing hack: Make a product that people need.
PR hack: Do something newsworthy.
Writing hack: Write every day for years.
Learning hack: Read a book. When finished, read another.
Organization hack: Clean up your mess.
Savings hack
: Lower your ego and live below your means.
Investing hack: Give compounding the decades it requires.”

When it comes to career success, as Morgan implied, the best shortcut is not to look for shortcuts as the last thing you want to do is build your future on a rocky foundation.

That being said, one thing I noticed in Morgan’s more extended list is he didn’t provide any “hacks” for how to build and maintain an effective network, which is a massive part of career success. After all, opportunities come in all shapes and sizes but the one thing they have in common is they come from other people.

The suggestions below aren’t “hacks” per se, but rather proven, time-effective ways to build a solid network. The best part is, for the four listed below, you can do them from the comfort of your couch.

“If your network isn’t providing you with two to three solid opportunities a year, you either need to change your attitude or build a new network.” — A very wise man

1. Use this recipe to connect with the people who are doing what you want to do

Some parts of the world may be opening up again. But one aspect of the “new normal” that can’t be denied is remote working in some form or another is here to stay. That means if you want to be considered for new opportunities, you’ll need to figure out some sort of system that allows you to effectively get in front of people.

I’ve been reaching out and getting on calls with people whose work I admire week in and week out for the last three years. In the process, I’ve discovered a very simple recipe that nine times out of ten results in a reply.

  • Write the words — “Thank you for X” in the subject line (despite how many people suggest writing thank you messages, very few people do it which makes it an easy way to stand out. Plus, it’s hard not to open a message when you’re being appreciated).
  • Let the person know in one sentence who you are and why they should care (mentioning a shared connect works well, as does a common interest or goal).
  • Mention something about their work that most people would miss while showing them how it helped you reach a goal or improve your life (aka — actually thanking them for something).
  • Make your “ask” memorable — my friend Aaron Dinin, PhD, professor of Entrepreneurship at Duke, is a fan of asking people to talk over a milkshake. Identify an effective yet memorable ask — that’s true to you — and rinse and repeat with each new person you want to meet.

Practice this skill. Mix things up until you’ve identified a proven system that gets results in the least amount of words possible. Keep it to three to five sentences and put it in front of some friends to get some feedback.

Just keep in mind that Tim Ferriss probably isn’t going to save you. So start smart by reaching out to people in your immediate circle or one layer out to grow out your network while building up your confidence.

My dad got it right — “The fastest way to get what you want is by getting to know the people who already have it!”

2. Join a tight-knit online mastermind group

With so many people working from home, this is a no-brainer. I started an online Slack group with coaches and writers a few years ago when I barely had an online footprint. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I was able to quit my job and follow my dreams shortly thereafter.

If you want to learn about opportunities, it sure helps if you’ve got additional eyes and ears looking and listening out for you. Plus, when it comes to any questions or concerns about your work, instead of spending the day wallowing in self-doubt, you’ve got a sounding board a few keystrokes away.

Begin by asking a few of your friends to share a space together to bat around ideas and ask each of them to invite one or two of their friends if you can’t find an established group out of the thousands that already exist online.

If Slack, isn’t your thing, you can even simplify it by starting an email chain with half a dozen people where you send a weekly update with questions, suggestions, and opportunities you’ve come across while getting together once a month for a group call.

It’s hard to walk away from the words — “A few friends and I have created a space to help each other share ideas and improve our work to better navigate the new world and we’d love for you to join!”

3. Create a time-effective plan to stay top-of-mind with people you already know

I recently wrote an article that was featured on this very platform and syndicated in Business Insider called— “The 7 Emails You Should Send Every week to Get Ahead in Your Career.”

In short —

  • Send an email thanking someone.
  • Send an email to someone you admire.
  • Send an email lifting someone up.
  • Send an email to your boss letting them know where you are.
  • Send an email to yourself letting yourself know where you are.
  • Send an email to someone you recently met.
  • Send an email to an old friend.

A big part of me thinks that the email recipe combined with its’ follow-up — “The 5 Phone Calls You Should Make Each Week to Get Ahead in Your Career” — may very well be the key to your future success.

These simple frameworks allow you to build relationships with the people you actually want to know while helping you maintain the relationships you already have.

The bottom line is over one billion emails are sent around the globe each day and most of them are awful. The same goes for most of the messages people send on Linkedin.

Stand out by actually writing emails people want to read and prioritizing quick calls or even short voice messages to learn what other people are seeing while sharing what you’re seeing. We’re talking about a few minutes each day to actually go at people individually instead of wasting precious time blasting random messages around social media.

4. Recruit a team of trusted advisors

I love mastermind groups. Something that can be just as valuable, though — especially if you’re short on time — is having an advisory board consisting of three or five people where each month you go over your challenges and the big decisions you’re facing.

Not only will getting various perspectives help you to better identify the pros and cons of each decision in front of you while strengthening your relationships with the other members. But the mere fact that at the end of each month you have a trusted group of people to help clarify your thoughts and feelings has the potential to free up a ton of headspace so you can better focus on the work in front of you.

Companies have an advisory board. It only makes sense that you do too.

Just do yourself a favor and elect people who see things differently than you. No matter how clever you think you are, as human beings, we miss stuff and varying perspectives can help you to better protect against your blind spots.

Strengthen your network in 2021 in four sentences

When it comes to career success, every Tom, Dick, and Melinda loves to say the most adaptable people win. But one thing they fail to mention is being adaptable is not something you need to do alone. In fact, the most successful people I know are adaptable for the simple fact they have adaptable friends.

  • Learn how to effectively get to know influential people you admire. That one skill — that you can learn in a few days with focused practice — will save you loads of time in the future and has the potential to result in a consistent stream of opportunities.
  • Join an online mastermind group to share ideas and opportunities. Most people say that if you make one good connection at a networking event that the time investment was worth it. Mastermind groups, however, give you instant access to a few dozen people playing in and around your sandbox.
  • Set up an easy system that allows you to stay top-of-mind. Consistent touchpoints lead to connections that last. Five minutes a day. Be proactive in staying in contact with people.
  • Go deep by recruiting a few people to form an online advisory board. We’re talking about an hour a month to create a bond with a select number of people that’s tough to break.

The beauty of the suggestions above is they aren’t even hard. We’re talking about a few emails, Slack messages, and phone or video calls that take up less time than your old commute.

The strongest communities created our past. The strongest communities will also build our future.

Co-creator of 2 cool boys with an equally cool woman • Career Coach • Business Insider, Fast Co., Forbes • Follow along for career tips and life reminders.

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