The best networking email you’ll get all year

February 1, 2011, 7:15 PM UTC

Experts and coaches remind us daily about the importance of keeping in touch with your network. If you’re like me, LinkedIn just handed you the perfect alibi on a silver platter.

Did you get an email last month from your friends at LinkedIn with the following subject: “Jodi, 86 of your connections changed jobs in 2010”?

If you did, it is quite possibly the best networking opportunity email you’ll receive all year. Experts and coaches remind us daily about theimportance of staying in touch with and taking full advantage of our networks — but the challenge is not in knowing that we need to reach out, it’s knowing how and when to reach out. If you’re like me, LinkedIn just handed you the perfect alibi on a silver platter.

Here are three ways to take that email and put it to good use:

1. Congratulations!

I talk a lot about TOUs or “thinking of you’s” — TOUs are a great way to stay connected to your network. Wishing someone a happy holiday, congratulating them on a favorite team’s sports win (Packers / Steelers anyone?) or congratulating a former classmate or colleague on a new job is a great way to ping someone in your network.

2010 was a year of big change. Take a minute to click through that infographic (I just love clicking on the faces and being directed to their profiles) and find out where you’re friends and colleagues have gone.

What are they doing now? Was it a promotion, a lateral move or a new direction altogether? Whatever the case may be, send a quick note to say congratulations. It’s a fast and easy way to reach out and share some well wishes.

Andrea, hello and congratulations!! I see that you’ve taken on a management role with Doctors without Borders, that’s amazing! I hope you’re enjoying your stint in Niger and I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I was thinking of you. I’ll look forward to touching base when you’re back in the states next year. Best, Jodi

2. Great to see what you’ve been up to

There’s also probably a subset of people in that email who you haven’t connected with in ages. Reaching out after losing touch is always hard — everyone has friends and colleagues we admire who have fallen off our radar. Consider this email as a reset button on those relationships — it gives you a perfect excuse to reach out today and congratulate a friend or colleague on that new job or comment on their recent activity:

Michael, how are you? It’s been ages since we’ve spoken but I just wanted to reach out to say hello. I noticed that you recently left Deloitte so I wanted to touch base and see how things are going. I’m actually in the process of launching a start-up; I’d love to tell you more about it….

3. I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry…

Finally, for those of you looking to find new jobs, make a career switch, or simply learn about opportunities in fields outside your own, consider this email as a catalyst to gather information and do some market research.

Julie, a client of mine, noticed that a former recruiter she had worked with on Wall Street had just jumped ship to join the fashion industry. Julie was thrilled — she had long been interested in a career in fashion and she suddenly had a connection to someone at one of her favorite design houses. Here’s how Julie crafted her email:

Isabel, hello and how are you? I just noticed via LinkedIn that you joined Diane Von Furstenberg in July, congratulations! I’m sure leaving Wall Street was a tough move. I’ve actually been interested in fashion and retail for a while and I’d love to talk to you about your experiences at DVF. Please let me know if you might consider scheduling a call to talk about how things are going for you…

Whether you have a strategic reason for reaching out (you’re looking for a new job) or you’re just interested in maintaining contact with someone in your network, reaching out to acknowledge a friend’s new position or updated status is a quick and easy way to connect. LinkedIn has done the hard part for you (you’re certainly not going to sift through everyone’s profiles to see what they’ve been up to), so build on that momentum and be sure to follow up — who knows what’s in store for 2011?

Jodi Glickman is a speaker and founder of communication training firm Great on the Job. Her book Great on the Job will be available in May 2011. Follow Jodi at @greatonthejob.