As we are stuck inside and all go into our baking/cooking phase, I wanted to provide you with my favorite recipe for effective networking that will open you up to many opportunities and a great support network.
- A bright and curious mind
- Research skills
- Willingness to reach out to individuals
- Consistent follow-up
- Ability to take actions based on advice
- Gratitude and appreciation/thank you notes
- Optional: strong network connections through school or work.
- The first step in this recipe is to have a bright and curious mind with determination and grit. This is the hardest ingredient and the most foundational. Consider it your starter. Combine this with the willingness to reach out and thoroughly mix it in.
- Once you have done so, put that aside. Now, bring out your research skills/internet and start researching individuals that works in areas of interests or have a story you are interested in. This is easier with the optional strong network but it is doable either way.
- Combine the starter with the results of your research and reach out to the individuals. Each reach-out should be as unique as its recipient, based on the research. Someone from your field of interest will get a different outreach than someone whose story interests you.
- Some of your reach-outs will start to form those networking relationships and some will not. Once you see that your effort has risen to the stage of having scheduled time to talk to the person, read more about their background and any writings they have published. Have interesting, personalized questions in addition to general ones. Take great notes about the call. Ask for ACTIONABLE steps so you know what you have to do.
- You are almost done. Once the call has occurred, take some time to research the actionable step they gave you. Within 24 hours, send a detailed thank you note. Detailed what you really loved about the call and also the research you have already taken based on their advice. There is no point of their advice if you don’t follow through on it.
- Last but definitely not least, occasionally sprinkle consistent follow-ups. People want to know how the time they have invested in you has turned out. Reach back out to them occasionally to let them know how you are doing. You should not only be reaching out to them when you want something from them. By consistently following up, you are keeping yourself in their minds so when an opportunity comes up, you will be the first in their mind. If they know other resources for their new stage or new path, you will be first on their mind.
The hardest part of all this, especially for me, is gathering the courage for that first reach-out. How do I do so without seeming like I am only using them because I need something. That is the thing, we all need help at one time or another; needing something is the impetus to build a network. What I did was create a list based on how much I felt the connection would help me develop as a person and in my career. I reached out as practice to those whom I felt were people I would like to know first; often these were individuals who were younger and still trying to figure out their paths. I tested out methods and messaging before reaching out to those with whom I felt substantial conversations about my career or life choices could be had.
In the three years at Scouted, I went from 231 LinkedIn connections to 869; over 90% of them, I have spoken to in person or over the phone. Every year, I take some time at the end of the year to send cards to 134 people who are continuous mentors to update them and let them know how much I appreciate the relationship.
Go form those meaningful relationships and happy networking!