Networking seems like a daunting chore to most, me included. I admit reaching out to people especially when not searching for a job can be awkward. What do you say to them? Do they want to hear from me?
First off, we have to stop being so wrapped up with what we think they’ll think—are we still in high school? When people reach out to me, I’m happy to hear from them and to be honest, I’m flattered. So let’s stop using “what will they think of me” as an excuse.
How do I get started? The first thing to do is figure out who’s in your network. Your college professor that helped you land your first job, your mentor from your internship, your former colleague that left the organization last month, etc… all of these people are part of your network. I recommend keeping your networking contacts in a spreadsheet where you can store their contact information and also track when the last time it was you contacted them.
How should I interact with my network? Start by reaching out to your networking contacts via email. This should be done individually. Yes, you can say similar things to each contact, but don’t do it in a mass email, that doesn’t send the right message.
If there are contacts in your network that you’re closer to, suggest going out to dinner, or meeting for coffee or drinks to catch up.
What should I say? Let them know what’s new with you. Did you start a new job? Launch a new product, etc…? Share that news in a way that would interest them.
“Last time I saw you I was telling you about the possibility of switching roles at work. I just wanted to let you know that I did, I’m now the Director of Awesomeness. I wanted to let you know I appreciate the advice you offered…”
What if there is nothing new with me? That’s okay. Maybe you’re reaching out because there is something new with your networking contact. Reach out to congratulate them on their new job, the new product they just launched, or award they or the organization they work for received. An easy excuse for reaching out is maybe there was an article or product that reminded you of them. It doesn’t have to be anything major, just enough to remind them that you’re out there.
“I just saw the news that you received the 40 under 40 award. That’s great to hear, congratulations!…”
Should I tell them I’m looking for a job? If you’re actively searching for a new job, you should tell your networking contacts that you are looking. Disclaimer: If you’re actively searching you will likely be in touch with your contacts more frequently.
How often should I reach out? Based on your relationship status with these people you will reach out in different frequencies, some might be every month, some every quarter, some every six months to a year. If you’re likely to forget to reach out again, put a reminder on your calendar. If you’re actively searching for a job you should reach out when you start searching to start the conversation of how your contacts may be able to help.
I hope that these few tips make you a more confident networker. It’s very easy to neglect your networking contacts, but it’s important to maintain those relationships. I know it’s hard, but you’ll be happy you did when they’re there for you when you start actively searching for a new job or looking to take the next step in your career.