Networking has become easier than ever with today’s new social networks, from Instagram to LinkedIn, there are various ways you can stay connected and expand your network. So, why are my fellow twenty-somethings still hesitant to reach out? I have heard the following reasons why individuals don’t reach out to other professionals: what if they don’t respond?… I don’t want to bother them… they won’t want to help me… I am a bit shy… They are too “high up” to help me out… and so on.
It can be intimidating to push yourself out of your comfort zone to network. The good news is, based on my research most (if not all) high-level professionals are impressed and willing to help when young professionals reach out to them. More often than not, an informational interview can lead to anything from a new job opportunity to a mentor and anything else in between.
Take it from my personal experience, by my mid-twenties here is what networking has done for me:
My post college job in publishing. Two promotions within that job, in two years. Respect among executives in company. Execution of $250,000 partnership (as an entry-level employee).
A job at a dream company of mine. Several mentors in various industries. Built non-profit + corporate partnerships.
Communities and contacts worldwide, in industries including: finance, marketing, communications, mentorship + career coaching, sales, global travel industry, fitness and more.
Allowed me to leave me traditional nine-five and start my own business.
So, let’s get started. Below are my tools and tips for building your network and growing you professional connections.
Do your research and get organized. The best place to begin when growing your network is to research the professionals and companies you are looking to connect with. To begin, remind yourself of your goals, then determine who can help you get there. For example, if you are looking for a career change, first determine in what industries. Once you have your goals set, begin to research your ideal companies. From there, take your search both online and offline. It is best to hit your personal networks first, so reach out to friends, alumni, old classmates or coworkers to see if anyone in your more immediate circle may have a lead for you. Also, be sure to attend networking events in your area in the fields you are interested in.
Secondly, take it online. LinkedIn is very helpful when beginning your search. On LinkedIn, you can filter to see if any of your fellow university alumni work at the company you are interested in. You can also filter and search by location, organizations you have in common, previous employers, connections in common and so on. Then, research each person and see if there is something unique you can connect with them on (they will appreciate that you know your stuff).
PRO TIP #1: Connect with everyone you meet and especially with contacts from your previous/current employers. You never know when someone might have a connection at your dream job and can serve as an introduction to get your foot in the door.
Reach out. I recommend creating a draft template you can reference as you send your initial and follow up messages. Introduce yourself (include where you met them, if applicable), state why you would like to connect with them and tie in something unique that shows them you have thoughtfully reached out to them (maybe you went to the same school, you are interested in their nonprofit work, or you are from the same hometown). Especially when applying for jobs, pick up the phone and call the company. That can often be the difference between you landing the interview (or position) over someone else.
Follow up: Always, always follow up. Keeping a relationship going and following up can be the key in landing your dream gig. I even kept in touch with a director at my dream agency for an entire year before I landed a position at the company. Every few months I would send a note to either grab coffee, ask how things were going at the job or just to send over an updated version of my resume and ask if any jobs have opened up (note: he offered to pass my resume along).
There are also several connections who I have talked with online for months before actually meeting in person. A week is usually a good timeline before following up with your second message, depending on the situation. As in most situations like these, “read the room” to make your decision on following up, but also push yourself to put yourself out there and touch base with your connections. Set reminders if you need!
Think out of the box. Can you pick up the phone? Send a book to their office they might enjoy? Maybe they wrote a book, read the book and send them a note with what you enjoyed. Can you send them a hand written note? Brainstorm what you can do to set you apart from the competition.
PRO TIP #2: Be authentic. Genuinely get to know these people, even though you have your end goal in mind. People will sense when you are just using them as a means to an end. If you go into each conversation with the true intention of getting to know them and learn from them, the rest often happens organically.
Have you practiced these tips before you need some help getting started? Comment below with your success stories, or reach out for a free consultation!