Getting into people’s inboxes can help you strengthen your connections, stay top of mind as opportunities come up, and learn about industry trends. But sometimes, you want to dive deeper than a few paragraphs. For that, my tool of choice is the good, old-fashioned phone call.
I reserve at least an hour a day to take calls while going for a walk — it’s my all-in-one networking, ideation, and Vitamin D solution. I like to choose a mix of people to call every week: folks who challenge me, see things differently than me, and can fill in the blindspots in my career. Try the habit yourself. Here are the five calls you should make every week.
At the beginning of every week, my friend and I send each other quick emails of what we’re working on, and then 24 hours later, we’ll hop on a call to hash out the list. I value Marina’s perspective on which ideas and tasks are an effective use of my time and which ones aren’t. I get a chance to vocalize my ideas, which helps me to quickly tighten my thinking.
I might say to her: “Here are the bones of two articles I’m thinking about — do you have anything to add, subtract, or move around some to make the argument stronger?” Or: “I’m thinking about doing X. What am I missing?”
If you do creative work for a living, find your own sounding board — someone with good taste who will give it to you straight. There’s something magical about having a thinking partner who knows both you and your work inside and out. It can seriously help drive your best ideas forward.
Oliver Burkeman, the former life-advice columnist for The Guardian, once wrote that when deciding what we want to do with our careers, we should choose what stretches us over what comes easily. I like this idea. I think it’s also a good rule to follow when deciding who we should spend our time with.
Get in front of someone who holds you to a standard that’s higher than you might even hold for yourself. For me, my “stretch” call each week is with the former global managing partner of IDEO and the author of Making Conversation. During our calls, I try to impress him. Some people say you shouldn’t try to impress people, but I think that’s nonsense. We should absolutely want to impress people. The key, however, is getting clear on the type of people we want to impress and then doing everything we can to ensure their time is well spent when we’re in front of them. Fred makes me pick up my game because I want to keep the door open for future opportunities.
If your focus is creating more opportunities, don’t underestimate the importance of getting to know people outside your lane — those whose work is tangentially related to your own. Say, if you’re a writer and only talk to other writers, you’ll be vying for the exact same opportunities as everyone else in your circle. But if you make a point to get to know founders, designers, and salespeople, you’ll be exposed to even more ideas, perspectives, and opportunities.
Make a habit of checking in with your old connections and asking them what they’ve been noticing in your industry. You might text them and say something like: “I came across this article and thought of you. It’s been a while. Want to hop on a call sometime and catch up?” Not only does this keep the door open for future collaborations, but you’ll also gain new insights as you fill each other in on what you’re seeing in the room you’re currently sitting in.
If you’re a few years or more into your career, find a mentor who’s younger than you. Most weeks, I spend at least 50% of my work time with people a decade younger than me, including the writers
. Not only do they help me navigate online trends better than people my age or older, but they have a ton of energy, which motivates me to step up my energy, too. The world is moving fast and the majority of this change is tech-driven. The people who I want walking me through it all are those who have been working in this landscape since day one. I’d bet younger mentors would be happy to trade their knowledge for your wisdom and possible connections.
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