One of the biggest mistakes job seekers (and all professionals) make is waiting to engage with their network until they need something.

Although we know we should “always be networking,” most professionals avoid networking because it feels time consuming, scary, and inauthentic.

But there’s a quick, easy and genuine networking activity you can do from your desk that improves your relationships, dramatically alters your career opportunities, and makes the world a better place.

Saying thank you.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of a woman who mentored me early in my career. She made a tremendous impact on my life by teaching me how to be effective as a young female leader.

So I pencilled in 5 minutes, found her on LinkedIn, and sent her a message telling her how much her mentorship meant to me.

If you’ve ever received an out-of-the-blue thank you note like this, you know it feels absolutely amazing.

And sending the note feels amazing too -- there’s no way taking a few moments to feel grateful and pay it forward doesn’t bring greater positivity and possibility to your day.

It doesn’t have to be a note; I made a personal commitment a few years back that if I have a thought that could brighten someone’s day, I share it: “if you think something, say something.”

In the office context, this often meant telling a colleague how much I learned from her presentation, or giving compliments as simple as “you were fantastic on that client call!”

The point is, in our busy working world where we’re constantly focused on more, better, faster, it truly stands out to hear that “something you did meant something, it made a difference.”

In contrast to informational interview requests or other networking messages that solicit our time and effort, we never tire of receiving genuine compliments that empower us and remind us why we do what we do. 

The benefit for job seekers

Many of my clients scramble to network during their job search, trying to find ways to reconnect with old connections and get back on their radar. 

But demonstrative gratitude doesn’t just make your contact’s day. It also up-levels your relationship to one of care and support instead of fair-weather reciprocity.

More often than not, the response to your thank you note will go something like this:

“I can’t tell you how much this message meant to me. I hope you are doing well and please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you.”

By proactively affirming a supportive relationship (and taking the time to support your connections when they need you), you can rest assured that when you really need something, your connections will be there to support you and they will want to help you.

Opportunities will likely start coming your way before you’re even looking!

The benefit for all of us

We’re generally taught that networking is about building relationships with people who will help us achieve our goals.

But networking shouldn’t be about furthering ourselves.

Networking should be about furthering each other, our community, and our shared goals for achieving our dreams and making the world better.

Instead of waiting to engage our networks until we have something to ask, the constant drumbeat in our working lives should be proactively finding ways to authentically empower and support each other.

Because that’s how we all win, together.

Give it a try.

Pencil in 5 minutes each week this coming month to show thanks to someone who’s made a difference in your life.

Or make your own commitment to “If you think something (positive), say something.”

I promise you’ll be blown away by the positivity, deeper relationships and opportunities that result.