Sunday, March 1, 2009

Five things you can do to "enhance your career." (Day One)

When is the last time you actually reached out and contacted a former associate for no purpose other than catching up. It is a bit awkward and there are several ways to do it, but quite frankly directness is probably the most efficient way of doing it. Try this strategy and see where it goes.
  1. Make a list of all the jobs you have had in the past 10 years. (Include volunteer projects or things you did at school if you are a bit younger than some of us.)
  2. At each place, list the people that you worked most closely with, including both supervisors and subordinates.
  3. Rank the people at each place in relative closeness. For instance, if you had ten colleagues at a job #1 would be the person you were closest to and #10 the person you were least closest to.
  4. Spend a bit of time on FaceBook and plowing through your old email addresses to see if you have any contact information... if it is likely out of date.
  5. Take the top two or three people from each job for whom you have contact information and rank them separately in relative closeness.
  6. Choose the person in the #1 slot and send an email or snail mail. That is similar to the one listed below.
  7. Relax for about two weeks and then repeat with #2 on your list.
Do not assume that burrowing to the bottom of the list and contacting 10, 15, or 20 folks will be even better than contacting just one. It won't. You'll burn out and not do it again. Go through your list methodically at a reasonably leisurely pace. It is highly likely that many people will simply ignore your contact, but surprisingly, many people will reciprocate and keep your network fairly dynamic.

As an aside, don't be devastated if your best friend from a previous job or class ignores you and don't return the favor by ignoring them. Keep a low profile, but do reach out to them regularly every year or so with an update. I am always surprised when people I knew quite well blow me off, but people I thought were more peripheral welcome my attempts and stay in touch.

Here's a sample of what you might send.

Hi! I know it has been a long time, but I hope you don't mind my intruding into your workday. I was thinking about my time at Athabasca Ice and couldn't help but remember some of our conversations. To be honest, I valued you as a colleague and know that unless I consciously keep my work relationships alive, they will disappear. So, you might say this is my "networking letter" for the week. Just to catch you up. In the six years since we were at Athabasca, I have take two other ice-related position. I worked for three years in the freezing department of St. Nick's Icebergs where I was the primary flash-freezer for the California region. Just over three years ago, I took a chance and joined Old Sparky's Thermal Undergarments as the CTO... Cheif Thawing Officer. The company has welcomed me warmly and I am hoping that more opportunities will arise soon.

At any rate, I just wanted to touch base and say hello. I realize that you are probably up to your bergs in cold work and may not be able to respond, so do not feel obligated. Should you ever be in Rejavik, please call and let me show you around the factory.

Best wishes,
Perry J. Penguin

That's it. Simple and direct with no hidden agenda. Try it.

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