A core personal and professional mantra of mine is “never let a relationship drop to zero.” Now, in a time when most of us are still working virtually with limited travel, it takes more effort than ever to stay in touch with people. Whether you’re interviewing for a job, trying to land a new client, or just maintaining friendships, the biggest mistake you can make is looking at a relationship as transactional. The key is to build authentic, long-term relationships, and that takes work.
This belief of always nurturing my relationships has helped me build my own business, win million-dollar clients, and build influential relationships—both personal and professional. It takes time and focus, and I don’t always get it right, but like anything else worthwhile, I keep at it.
Here are four ways you can practice keeping up on your network.
Set a reminder
The most common relationship-killer is simple neglect. If you truly don’t want to lose contact with someone, set a recurring notification to remind yourself to reach out to them at least once a quarter. Anywhere you’ve ever interviewed (and haven’t gotten the job) or any client you’ve pitched (and lost the business) consider reaching back out every so often. Send over an article to them and let them know it reminded you of them or something you spoke about. Next time an opportunity opens up, they’ll be more likely to think of you because you’re top of mind.
Connect with four
As the CEO of an advertising agency and the father of two boys (and recently a new puppy), my time is scarce, to say the least. But one habit I practice weekly is to write down four people I haven’t spoken to in a while that I want to connect with. It can be a current client or an old friend, but it’s important to set time in your calendar so it actually happens. Never letting your relationships drop to zero takes a lot of work, but eventually this practice will become habitual.
Shift from social to personal
Next time you go to share a thought on social media—whether you’re tweeting out praise for a new show or liking an article on social media—don’t. Instead, go through your mental Rolodex and figure out who specifically would appreciate the recommendation or insight. Then send out a few emails or text messages aimed at individual people. In other words, share something of interest to restart a personal conversation.
Bring people together
Look for opportunities to introduce people. Have a client who loves classic guitars? Introduce him to your high school friend who restores old Les Paul guitars. Is your neighbor considering going to law school? Put her in touch with your cousin who teaches torts at NYU Law School. Don’t force the interaction; just make the introduction and let them do the rest. Your goal is to value relationships for their own sake—and that includes other people’s relationships.
The key is to think of a no as no for right now. It doesn’t matter if someone says no to your idea or request or interview. If you’re truly interested in having a long-term relationship with this person, you’ll keep in touch and have more conversations in the future. The relationship may very well result in even better opportunities at some point.
Think about it this way: The person who only comes knocking when they need something from you isn’t someone you want to keep in touch with. And the reason is, that person only cares about their own personal gain. If you go out of your way to nurture your own personal and professional relationships, the benefits will naturally follow.
Jason Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Mekanism, and the author of The Soulful Art of Persuasion.