It would be great if you could just network with your circle of friends, but it doesn’t aways come that easy. For many people in their 20s, networking can be a bit daunting — especially when you have to take the first step and reach out to someone you don’t know very well and attempt to build a connection with them.
Let me ease your fears: Most people who have achieved some form of success like people to seek their advice and want to connect with them! They enjoy helping like-minded people achieve success as well. This article will help you start networking and keep a system in place to support those connections.
Identify whom you want to connect with & plan key questions
Who is doing something that you want to do in life, or who has a quality, skill or talent that you’d like to develop? This is whom you want to network with, someone who is where you want to be. Maybe you found them on LinkedIn, you read their blog or they work at the office with you. While you don’t need to know everything about them, it is a good idea to come up with some key questions you’d like to ask them.
I identify the things I admire and respect the most about the person I want to network with, and I gear my questions around those things.
Schedule a call or a meet-up
Once you’ve identified whom you’d like to network with, next is the fun part — reaching out to them to schedule a call or a meet-up. An easy way to reach out to the person you’d like to network with is to email them. Express your desire to connect with them and why, and ask what day and time works best for a phone call so that it’s clear you respect and appreciate their time. If it’s someone from the office, try to meet up with them face to face.
When I contact someone to schedule a call or meet-up, I make sure that I know what days and time slots work best for me in case I’m presented with options or I’m unavailable. This helps make the planning efficient so the call or meet-up happens ASAP.
During the phone call or meet-up
So they agreed to the phone call or meet-up — now what? Make sure you are on time and prepared! Express your desire to grow, and share what you admire about them. Keep it honest and make sure not to go overboard — your goal is not to get brownie points, but to build a networking relationship. Give them an opportunity to talk and share whatever they’d like. Then ask any questions you may have.
When I first approach a phone call or meet-up, after thanking them for their time, I like to ask them why they’ve agreed to meet with me. This makes the call or meet-up less awkward because sometimes when we’re in the “seeking” position we feel like we need to earn approval or seem perfect. Asking what interests them about the meet-up helps me to know that they are also invested in our networking.
Send a follow-up email
After your conversation, be sure to send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. Mention some highlights of your talk and what you took from it — this helps them to remember you. Also, mention any follow-up points, such as a future phone call you scheduled with them or something you or they agreed to do at a later date.
In my email the day after our conversation, I like to mention my next plan of action. This lets them know that I am serious about growing as a person and that their input was helpful. People like to help those who are motivated and intentional about their goals.
Keep checking in
Check back with your new business or professional contacts often. If you are on LinkedIn, add them. If you are both on Twitter, follow them. Like them on Facebook. If the first talk was helpful, it’s also a good idea to schedule more calls or meet-ups in the future.
I realize that most of the people I want to network with are busier than I am, so I make it a point to reach out to them every month to see how they are and continue to build our relationship. I only send emails if I have something new to ask or if I have new developments in my career that I’m sure they’d enjoy knowing about.
If you don’t feel a monthly email would benefit them or yourself, be sure to like some of their Facebook posts, favorite a tweet from them or comment on their blog. If you’re networking with someone from work, stop by their office and say hi from time to time. This keeps them from forgetting you, which important in building network relationships.