1. Don’t Be Shy
Whether you’re getting up the courage to talk to a stranger at a networking event or gearing up to send an email to someone you barely know, networking is not the time to by shy. Do whatever you have to do to build up your confidence and just go for it. Remember how valuable you are, how competent you are, and that your skills are truly needed. Speak clearly, make eye contact, and just take that risk. The worst that happens is an awkward conversation – and we’ve all had a million of those.
2. Ask the right questions
Once you get a chance to speak to someone that could potentially help you with your career, make sure you ask the questions you really need answers to. They’re not going to tell you what you should do with your life or what’s the best career path for you to take. That’s up to you. What they can do is bring clarity to a world/industry/position that you haven’t yet experienced. They have the experience and the knowledge that you lack, so ask them about their career path, the companies they’ve worked at, what they’ve enjoyed and disliked. Take it all in and learn.
3. Leave with a plan of action
The worst thing is to have a great conversation and leave not knowing the next steps. You may not always know what will come of each conversation, but make sure you almost take notes in your head as you talk and listen for possible connections. If they know someone at a company you are interested in, speak up and tell them that’s a place you could see yourself. If they work somewhere you’d like to be, ask if they know of any openings. I always find myself afraid to be too forward, but there’s a way to ask while remaining humble and thankful. Make sure you end the conversation with a clear plan of action, like you sending them your resume or them putting you in touch with someone else. This should be the last thing you talk about before saying goodbye.
I’m sure you hear this a million times, but follow-up! Quickly! This isn’t a date. You don’t need to play games and wait a few days before getting in touch (I wouldn’t recommend that anyway!). Write them a thank you email as soon as you can (okay, you can wait a few hours so you’re not too eager). I also recommend going straight for the email rather than a hand-written note. Yes, hand-written notes are lovely, but when it comes to business, you need to move quickly. Especially if you’re in the digital space, email works just fine.
Thank them sincerely, include your resume, and then take it one step further. Make it as easier for them as possible to help you. I always include a quick paragraph that explains my background, my skills, and what I’m currently looking for. Try to think from their perspective, as if you were hiring or helping someone get a job, and make yourself sound valuable. I also will tell them where I’ve already applied, in a quick list form, in case they have connections at those places. Again, make it as easy as possible for them to help you.
5. Follow-Up Again
People are busy, so it’s not surprising if they don’t respond within a week or even two. If they haven’t responded in a week, I would send a friendly follow-up just checking in to make sure they received your email. Think about how busy you are at work or school – it can be hard to keep up with your emails, especially when it’s not urgent for you. So don’t take it the wrong way if they don’t respond quickly.
6. Follow-Up One Last Time
If you still don’t receive an answer a week later, follow-up again. This time, try to include an update so it’s not just the same email over again. Let them know you’ve applied to a few more places and list those out, or let them know if you have any other thoughts or questions for them. This way they’ll have more to respond to and may be more willing to reply.
7. Keep Them in the Loop
Once you make a connection, never lose it. If you’re lucky enough that they lead you to an interview, keep them in the loop and let them know how it went (thank them as well, of course). If they connect you to someone else, let them know how that went as well. If you end the interaction on a good note, you can always reach out to them again down the road, and maybe one day, you’ll be able to help them out too!
What are some of your networking tips?