Networking at its core is about connection. Relationships. It’s that simple. And it’s an essential skill because it’s how you learn about new career opportunities, get access to mentors, gain insight on industry trends or peer compensation, tap into emotional support during challenging times, and grow your confidence 🌟
Like anything that’s worthwhile, it’s a learning journey that takes time, practice and commitment. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when networking with someone in-person or via phone / video conference.
💡Have a clear goal. Know what you want to learn and keep it manageable. Your goal might be learning about their company culture, understanding the path to promotion, whether an advanced degree is recommended, or uncovering the most important skill they have cultivated in their role.
💬Lead the conversation. Prepare some thoughtful questions in advance and drive the conversation without over-talking. Be curious about their answers and resist the urge to rush to the next topic. Listen intently.
🤝Add value. Identify something you can bring to the conversation as a “reverse mentor” such as a new research study about your industry or generation, a cool tool, a point of view on the company’s new product, or maybe you have social media expertise to share. Your value to offer might not be obvious until you are in the conversation.
🙏Say thank you. Be gracious. Let them know you appreciate their time and perspective in the moment. The importance of this can not be overstated.
📩 Follow up. Every time. Without exception. It’s crucial to formally express your gratitude quickly. Email is efficient and effective, especially if you include links or attachments. A handwritten note on high-quality paper can help you stand out and be memorable (although may not reach the recipient in a timely manner).
📝Track your contacts. A simple spreadsheet can help you log the notes from each conversation, track the follow-up and create a reminder alert for a simple check-in and update in 3-4 months.
💁♀️Be generous. Think about what you can proactively share in future communication – an article, a success story, or how you effectively incorporated their insight or advice. And, be open to others who want to network with you based on your role, company or industry experience.
🙅♀️ PLEASE DON’T….
😫Procrastinate or panic. Waiting until the last minute to build relationships is a path to nowhere. And, no one wants to meet with a panicked professional. Keep your contacts warm by reaching out 2-4 times per year.
✋Over ask. If you are meeting someone for the first time, keep your ask within reason. Focus on lessons learned or advice for your stage or age. Don’t ask for a job unless they are actively seeking someone with your skills.
🙈Make blind intros. Never assume it’s okay to introduce someone you know to someone else unless you have permission from both people. A double opt-in will increase the chance of a successful connection and protect your relationships.
🏃♀️Be late. If you are meeting in person and you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late. If it’s Zoom, be 5 minutes early. Pad your calendar to accommodate for traffic or tech glitches.
⏰Exceed the allotted time. Wrap up on time – early if possible. People will always be appreciative of having a few extra minutes back in their day.