Whether youíre a recent graduate, looking to advance in your company or trying to widen your social network, you need to work your list of contacts as the first stage in your battle plan. And whatís my definition of "contact"? Anyone that might help you achieve your goal.
But hereís the funny thing about contacts. Most people think of a Ďcontactí as someone with power and authority, with hiring and firing status. But, a contact could be your former roommate that you parted with but still remember with fondness or your former SAT coach whose son is a mucky muck at NBC News or your neighbor that moved to Washington, D.C. to take a job with a Senator when you were in high school.
In fact, contacts are everyday people that made an impression on you because of their sharp mind, connectedness or empathy. And because most relationships are reciprocal, you need to assume you made a positive impression upon your contact.
Open your address book. Log-on to Friendster. Ask your mother for the name of your former neighbor who now works for Senator Schumer. Broadcast your openness to new insights or direction by writing an email or short note to every one of your contacts and let them know what youíre doing and where youíd like to go. Or pick up the call and schedule a 10 minute meeting.
Working your contacts is a lot like dating and as we know, some of our best dates came from a personal introduction. Donít worry about asking people for a favor because it makes people feel good to change someoneís life. Ask away. Just donít be too disappointed if they canít help you. Thatís a small risk you have to take.
Small gestures count. So if youíre a fledgling just out of school, make it a habit to keep tabs on people that you admire and send them a note when itís appropriate. If someone does you a favor, go out of your way to acknowledge it. If a small gift makes sense, send one. We donít acknowledge one another nearly enough Ė take that opportunity to let someone know how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness.
Opportunity doesnít knock on unmarked doors. Make sure your door is clearly marked for success by being ready for capriciousness. Leave the house looking like a zillion dollars and answer "fabulous" when someone inquires about what youíre up to. Being enthusiastic is a turn-on and so is being engaged and plugged in to culture, life and current events. Use every opportunity Ė waiting for your Vente decaf; picking up your dry cleaning or having dinner alone at the sushi bar Ė to invite people in to your ever-expanding list of contacts.
If thereís one secret to having a full and interesting life, itís having connections. Or, if you will, contacts.