The holiday season is upon us (Happy Chanukah!), which means that between all the celebrations, gift giving, and good cheer, you have the perfect opportunity to check back in with your contacts. But how exactly should you go about doing that?
First, make a list. Check it twice. It should include all your contacts, from the external contacts you interact with regularly through work to the person you met for an informational interview months ago to the person you chatted with at a virtual mixer. Include notes about each person, like how you know them or how they might be connected to your dream company. It's best if you create this list over time and continually update it, but if you haven't started one, now is a good time!
Next, figure out how to reach out. If you have the bandwidth, you can email everyone on your list, but it's also totally okay if you triage it -- and when you do, you may decide that different people get a different form of outreach, or you may remove people from your list altogether. Some people opt to send a newsletter recapping their year, but we don't recommend this as a way to build strong connections. A mass email is a more effective strategy if you're sending out a note on behalf of your whole team, if you already regularly send out newsletters, or if you have a major project or life announcement. If you go this route, make sure you have permission to email your contacts in that manner, expect a decent number of "unsubscribes," and don't anticipate many notes back. Think of this more as a targeted social media post, and consider sharing your update on LinkedIn instead.
Another option is to send handwritten cards. Most people opt to do this for personal contacts but there may be some people on your list who fall in between personal and professional. This method is more about well-wishes than establishing a rapport, so don't expect this to spark a conversation with a contact you haven't chatted with in a while. But it is a nice gesture.
If you're looking for a more in-depth exchange, or even just open up communication channels, a personalized email is best. You want to keep this short and sweet. After the season's greetings, you can let them know what you're up to in 1-2 sentences, as candidly as your relationship allows (e.g. "I'm still looking to transition to a full-time role in development" or "I plan to start looking for a new role in 2022 and am hoping to land at a streaming service in the production department" or "Since we last spoke pre-pandemic, I wrapped production on the latest season of X and am gearing up for my next show in late January!"), and ask how things are going for them. You can also ask if they'd like to catch up in the new year, as long as you make sure not to overcommit yourself. Draft a new message for each contact and note the outreach on your handy-dandy list so that you're set up to track your network in 2022.
You don't have to email everyone all at once, either. Make a schedule for yourself (again, based on how you prioritize your list!) and start sending notes as early as the week leading up to Christmas break and as late as the first week back at work (that said, if you are hoping for a response, avoid sending your note the Friday before Christmas break). You may not get a response from every contact, but if you're genuine, polite, and professional, you'll get back on the radar and keep your network up to date.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan