When it comes to landing a new job, networking can be a critical tool. In fact, 37% of job seekers say they learned about career opportunities through their professional networks, while nearly half heard about job listings from friends, according to a survey released last year from Jobvite.
"You have to network. With networking, you get yourself out there — out of the witness protection program your own little desk can become," says bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch.
Meeting people you don't know helps you learn what you need to know, Welch says. You may learn about companies that are going under or blowing up, or about trends or technologies that are just taking off. You might even hear about an interesting job opportunity through networking, Welch says.
But that doesn't mean people enjoy networking. LinkedIn found that 51% of professionals prefer non-traditional networking, such as meet-ups over manicures or "sweatworking" during a workout as opposed to the traditional drinks-after-work approach.
Yet with the coronavirus pandemic still in full swing, getting together in person may not always be possible. Not to worry, Welch has the solution. It's a networking hack that will allow you to continue to build your contacts and share information during the pandemic without engaging in all the awkward small talk of a traditional networking event.
"I write good-old fashioned thank you notes. Well, not that old fashioned, because they're rarely, if ever, written by hand. But write them I do. Usually by email," Welch says. Occasionally, she'll send them via text or even a direct message on social media. Welch says using this networking hack for more than two decades has basically removed formal networking from her life.
Welch has actually built this networking hack into her weekly routine. "Every week, I come up with someone who has made my life better in some way, from friends and acquaintances to strangers I admire," Welch says. "Not infrequently, I pick someone I once worked with — an early boss, for instance, or a colleague I looked up to from afar. I try to pick people who I have irregular contact with, if any at all. The idea here is not to thank people who have you on speed dial," she says.
Welch once wrote to a professor who taught her epic poetry during her freshman year in college. "The things he said about perseverance have stayed with me since I was 18, and helped my career in profound ways," she says.
Welch also makes it clear that she never expects anything in return. "I just say hi, thank you for this thing or that, no need to answer, and take care. That's it," she says.
"But here's the amazing thing: People almost always write back. I would say that the vast majority of these thank you notes have led to wonderful email conversations and occasionally phone calls," Welch says.
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Not all of the notes or subsequent conversations pay dividends, but Welch still enjoys connecting or reconnecting with people. "I have a fun conversation, learn some new stuff, get myself out there, spread the gospel of my company's mission and grow my village. Which is what networking is all about, right?" she says.
And at the end of the day, thanking people is fun. "It feels so good. And it's so easy," Welch says. "We're talking about committing a few minutes a week to a feel-good activity that over time will likely yield you more 'contacts' than years of stale networking events in hotel ballrooms."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.