I suppose it is fair to say that A LOT has been going on since my first post on networking and relationship building way back in October. All this craziness may have blocked your memory. Don’t worry - we’ll kick this week off with a recap:
Networking is warm and fuzzy.
Networking needs to happen before you need it and before you know what you want.
There’s plenty of pre-work to be done before you hit the local networking events.
I know what you’re thinking “Changing my perspectives and completing my pre-work is great and all, but how do I actually networking and build new professional relationships?” It’s easy - so easy in fact, all it takes is three steps.
The initial networking meeting is just the beginning. It’s like this awkward test you have to pass in order to get to the good stuff. Sort of like eating your veggies before you can dive into dessert. You get the point.
In my mind, the act of “networking” is a one-time event. It is the inception of a relationship and from that point, either a relationship grows or it stays dormant until it needs to wake up again (which it might never wake up again).
Step 1: Set up a networking meeting or attend a networking event.
I recommend sending an email to set up a networking meeting (second option would be LinkedIn, third option would be requesting a meeting face-to-face which is probably only possible with someone at your office or someone you meet at a networking event).
The request is easy. If you’re not sure what to say, here's something to get you started:
Dear Person I’d Like to Network With,
My name is Networking Nancy and I am currently a Business Analyst at Big Corporation. I am interested in learning more about management and overseeing a team of people. Friendly Fred recommended that I reach out to you as someone who would be willing to have a conversation and answer some questions for me.
Are there a few times in the next month that you are available to connect? I can meet you wherever is easiest for you.
Thank you in advance for your consideration!
Also, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about requesting to network:
Follow up every two weeks if you don’t hear anything; persistence will pay off
If you are sending this message over LinkedIn, remember people don’t check their LinkedIn as frequently as email or Facebook
Don’t freak out if you never get a response. It probably has nothing to do with you or your request. People are BUSY!
Step 2: Engage in the act of networking.
I am sure some of you are just squirming in your seats right now. Relax - it is not so bad. If your chance to network is a one-on-one meeting (perhaps established from the beautiful note you sent above), there are a few things you can do to help feel more prepared:
The person you are meeting with is not bothered with you, after all, they agreed to meet with you.
Come with a list of questions. If you are nervous, or aren’t sure what to say, hit them with a question. People love talking about themselves!
Notice how much time you spend talking compared to your new connection. If you reached out to them to pick their brain, yet you’re doing all the talking, you’re not really meeting the expectation that the other person had about what the meeting was going to be like. If they wanted to pick YOUR brain, they would’ve reached out to you and not the other way around.
Ah, but what about the dreaded networking event? Don’t sweat that either.
First, remember why anyone attends a networking event, to network with other people. Before the event even starts you can be certain that you have something in common with a group of people you may not know.
Second, set a goal for yourself of how many people you’d like to meet. I usually select three because I like to engage in longer conversations rather than just shuffle through a deck of business cards.
Third, a phenomenal opening question to ask someone is “So, what brought you here tonight?”. You’ll know immediately if this person is someone to continue talking to for the rest of the night based on how they answer.
One last thing about networking events: Don't be shy about walking away from someone who is awkward or uninteresting. Just say this “Well, Awkward Allie, it’s been great talking to you tonight. I am hoping to meet a few more people yet tonight so I am going to keep mingling! Enjoy the rest of your night.”
Step 3: FOLLOW UP.
People, it isn’t the request to network, or the initial meeting, that creates a strong relationship and establishes a connection. It is the FOLLOW UP. Think about how many people you have met in your lifetime. Out of all of those people, who stands out the most? Probably those that have followed up with you and continue to remain present in your life or vice versa. Meeting someone one time does not put you into a valued relationship. There is a big difference in “I met him once” to “We’ve been great friends ever since!”.
Here is your follow up checklist:
Request to connect on LinkedIn with a PERSONALIZED note (don’t send that generic LinkedIn message)
Set a reminder on your calendar a month out to send a follow up note. “Dear Person I Networked With A Month Ago, Since our meeting I have been thinking about your perspective on XYZ and I recently decided to do ABC because of it! Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Networking Nancy”. Now, if something happens before a month goes by, LET THEM KNOW. Don’t wait.
Reset that reminder. Determine when it might be time for another face-to-face meeting.
Oh, yeah, and if the person carved time out of their calendar to have a phone call with you or share a cup of coffee, send them a handwritten thank you card. Please please please PLEASE don’t skip this step.
This post will be the end of the series on networking and relationship building. If there are any questions that you have, or anything you’d like to talk through, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help!
Have a great week!