"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
How do you manage your network? I have a lot of contacts, but I'm not sure how to stay in touch with them. Is there a way to know whether someone's not responding to an email because it got buried or because they're annoyed by the outreach? I don't want to come off as a bother to them, nor do I want to waste my time chasing down a contact who isn't interested in a relationship...but I also don't want to fall off someone's radar entirely if they were just busy when I happened to reach out! How can I decide when to "let go?"
-- Persistent or Pesty?
Dear Persistent or Pesty,
There are a few ways to manage your network, like meeting contacts for drinks/coffee (in person or virtually) and sending check in emails from time to time, including around the holidays. Eventually, you amass different tiers of contacts -- close friends, people you work with regularly, and people you can reach out to a couple of times a year. You might find it helpful to track your contacts in a spreadsheet, especially if you're currently searching for a new job and planning to reach out with requests for referrals. This way, you can note who's responding, when, and what you discussed, and you can easily set reminders for yourself to get another date back on the books. It's also okay to let the relationships form and grow naturally and reach out to your contacts when there's a specific reason, like congratulating them on a promotion or because you really want to get together. It's impossible to maintain the perfect relationship with every single person you meet, so you'll have to find a balance.
When it comes to staying in touch, the best answer -- as unsatisfying as it may be -- is to use your gut. If someone hasn't responded to an email after one follow up, and they aren't someone you know very well, it's not worth being too persistent unless there's a very specific reason to reach out -- like you just applied to a job at their company, or you saw that their pilot got picked up to series. If the person not responding is someone you've met a few times in person or worked with directly, and you didn't do anything offensive to them, it's likely that they're just busy -- reach out again in a few weeks.
In general, with contacts you don't know too well or haven't been in touch with recently (think: someone you did an informational interview with 6 months ago, or an internship boss you haven't spoken to in a year), it's helpful to give context when you're reaching out, either by emailing on top of an existing thread and/or reminding the person who you are and how you know them, and then including a little sentiment about why you've decided to contact them. Is it to congratulate them on something? Ask for a favor? Check in because there's something exciting happening with you? You should be reaching out from time to time without a specific "ask," but it's always good to give the person something direct to respond to, like a question, kudos about a new project announcement, or a request to meet up. Simply asking, "What's new with you?" won't generate a lot of responses from casual contacts who are likely too busy to offer a rundown of their goings on to a virtual stranger.
Overall, your most useful contacts will be people who go from being "contacts" to people you have relationships with. It can be hard to make that transition, and don't expect it to happen with everyone you meet. Lean into the relationships you have with colleagues, people you've worked with on various projects, friends of friends, and anyone you've met that you had an easy time talking to. With time, you'll build a rapport with enough people, and as your career grows, you'll have a wider net of people you can reach out to with ease.
-- Angela & Cindy