Ryan and I connected last year via our alma mater, and although he may not be a young professional (he gave me permission to say that), his passion for growing the next generation of leaders intrigued me. I have enjoyed working with Ryan in several capacities over the last year and believe you will learn a lot from him about networking early on in your career.
During my career, I’ve learned one valuable lesson and that is the power of connections. Not just passive and impersonal connections via social media, but the power of proactively connecting with those who will assist in both professional and personal growth. There isn’t a real “art” to connecting with others, as much as there is consistent action of reaching out intentionally. Below are tips that I hope help other young professionals in their future endeavors towards networking.
Who to reach out to:
Leverage your immediate circle: Most young professionals believe they don’t have a large enough network to leverage. You might not, but your relatives and family friends do, and their connections can extend further than you think. Those closest to you have spent years building a network of connections that are at your fingertips.
Leverage your personal connections: You spent time in your educational career crossing paths with teachers and professors that are more than willing to introduce you to their contacts. Make a list of those whom you’ve had positive experiences with and have seen your worth in the academic world.
Get outside of your box: Use the power and reach of networking organizations and social media. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to total strangers whom you meet or connect with via these organizations. With effort and the right approach, these connections will be willing to meet with you and connect you to others within their network.
How to reach out:
Email or telephone: If you have a choice, then I suggest always reaching out over the phone. It can be intimidating but it’s the most direct and immediate. It also demonstrates that you are willing to make the effort above what most would expect. Then, with emails, you want to make sure you have an idea of what you’re asking for and be intentional when asking. Always go in with a plan and a goal when asking for a connection.
Become a detective: Make a list of the top companies and/or industry leaders that you would like to connect with. Then leverage your network, Google, and LinkedIn to find a way to contact these individuals. Now, I’m not saying to go blow up Mark Zuckerberg directly, but if you have an interest in learning more about the role of engineers within Facebook then utilize those resources to reach out and connect to those in positions of interest to you. With that said, those who are closest to you geographically are much more likely to make the effort to connect with you, so think strategically.
When you reach out, always be intentional and have a plan: Remember that all people want to feel important and needed. I have a general script that I say when I reach out to connect with others. Some things that I incorporate into my approach are:
How you came across that individual.
The purpose of your reaching out to them.
Let them know that you are a young professional reaching out to successful, established professionals to grow your network.
Acknowledge that you are aware of their busy schedule and that you would greatly appreciate any time they could spare over the phone or over a cup of coffee for you to learn from them and their professional experiences.
Ask to set a specific time to connect, at their convenience.
Be prepared, and ask if they would be willing to put you in touch with two other people in their circle based on your current job, industry, and/or your efforts to grow your professional network.
Offer to assist them. You might feel like you have nothing of value but offer to assist them in any way you can. This demonstrates that you don’t want this to be one-sided.
The follow up:
I highly suggest writing a handwritten thank you note and sending it to them the day after you meet. It seems old fashioned, but very few people write thank you notes. It shows effort and demonstrates you are willing to do the little things to build relationships. It will impress them and elevate you above most young professionals they will encounter. I would recommend continuing this practice throughout your career.
Put a reminder in your calendar to follow up with people at least once a year via a quick ‘thank you’ email and maybe schedule another time to connect. This keeps you on their radar and can open up opportunities for you in the future.
Be timely: When someone offers you their time to connect, respond promptly. One thing we have to realize is that other people’s time is valuable and we have to do everything we can to respect their time. I’ve offered up my time to lots of young professionals who don’t follow up and then I run across them a few weeks later only to be greeted with “I’ve been so busy, I’m so sorry I haven’t followed up with you.” What does that tell me?
As a young professional, you have a blank slate to be proactive in building your personal and professional network. It’s not only about connecting with those who can help you make a sale or further your career, but in connecting with people who can help you grow in ALL areas of your life. This requires a proactive, intentional, systematic, and personal approach to reaching out.
The YoPro Know's Takeaways:
-Write a handwritten thank you note and send it to them the day after you meet a connection
-Leverage both your personal and immediate connections when networking
-Respect new connections' time and respond timely
-Don't forget to follow up
Connect With The Author Here: Ryan Robinson