What happened when I called 1 new person a week

During the fourth week of quarantine, I received a flurry of emails that sent my already anxious mind into overdrive. In the span of five minutes, I lost half my work contracts.

Fortunately, I was able to quickly replace them. The reason for this is simple: for the last three years, no matter what I have going on, I reach out to just one new person a week who is doing something I think is cool requesting a chance to get to know them.

This past month alone I’ve spoken with quite possibly the most inspiring person I’ve ever met who writes uplifting articles with his eyes due to being completely paralyzed from ALS; the former Chief of HR at Apple; a professor of entrepreneurship at Duke; and a 17-year-old designer who is offering his marketing services for free to help mom-and-pop shops in the UK better navigate COVID.

In each of these instances, we’ve either decided to work together or stay in contact for future collaborations. Some have even agreed to join a mastermind group I’ve created off the back of these calls.

As a guy who grew up with social anxiety, I know reaching out to new people isn’t always fun.

But since the rise of remote work has exploded, our ability to build connections with people from home has become an extremely valuable skill.

Not only that, but when it comes to improving both your communication skills and your ability to create opportunities the benefits of picking up the phone are too big to ignore.

  • You’ll learn how to properly research people in order to send them a short pitch that explains who you are and why they should care.
  • You’ll master the art of asking both planned and spontaneous questions to keep the conversation engaging.
  • You’ll learn directly what is important to other people while gaining confidence to talk about your own values and goals when the conversation turns in your direction.
  • You’ll begin to look at strangers differently and learn the world is full of incredibly talented and kind people.
  • Lastly, in a matter of only a few months, you’ll begin to create a vast network of people to share ideas and opportunities with.

If I’ve learned anything after making over 200 of these calls, it’s that people like Tim Ferriss aren’t going to save you. Don’t make the mistake of getting hung up on titles and chasing only big names. You’re much better served by first connecting with people who are around the same rung as you or people you are simply curious about.

I got started by reaching out to people I was already conversing with on social media as it made the ask easier. Feel free to do the same or contact friends of friends who are playing in your lane.

People are starting to realize the importance of still growing out our networks while being stuck at home. You’d be surprised how effective these words can be: “If you need a break one day, let me know if you’d like to talk. I’d love to see if there’s a way we can help each other as it looks like we are into the same things.”

You can even begin by rekindling old connections with people you’ve fallen out of contact with to build momentum to cement your new phone habit.

No matter how many tools technology brings into our lives, referrals are still the best way to learn about new opportunities. Studies also show, however, that when it comes to being on the receiving end of these referrals, our “weak ties” trump “strong ties.”

This is because our closest friends usually travel in the same social circles as we do, whereas “weak ties” present us with new ideas, contacts, and possibilities.

The best part is, after a few calls, you won’t even have to spend time drafting an outreach message. Ask the people you are speaking with if there is anyone they recommend getting to know and offer them the same opportunity. I don’t know about you, but this sounds much better than approaching strangers at a networking event and starting from zero.

We’re talking about an hour investment a week — just 2.5 percent of the average person’s workweek — to expand your world by learning about someone else’s.

This article first appeared on Medium.

Michael Thompson is a career and communication coach who helps people advance their professional careers while simplifying their personal lives. For weekly career tips and thoughtful essays, feel free to follow along here.