The Part of Networking Nobody Tells You About
Most of us don’t network as much as we should, some of us love it and networking becomes a way of life, and some of us just plain don’t (or won’t). In this day and age, business professionals clearly understand that networking should be part of their repertoire, but it’s hard to get started, and sometimes, we get so busy that we stop networking, or go through the motions with one small group of like-minded individuals who may or may not continue to be of value.
One of the consequences of not continuing to network on a regular basis is that we lose touch with people we have met and who were of value to you – or – you were no longer of value to them – because that’s what networking is all about.
And now, you are at a place in your career where some of those old contacts could be of significant value to you, but, you haven’t been in touch with them for a while. How do you go about re-connecting without sounding needy??
There’s a lot of good advice on the internet about how to make those re-connections. The most important piece is to ask yourself “What’s in it for them?” In other words, keep the first rule of networking firmly in mind – help the other guy first. Once you have determined that, a short email to the person you want to re-connect with is in order. While a phone call might be faster, it’s not giving them a chance to decide how to handle this blast from the past with no warning.
Since I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel, I am going to pass on the very good advice I found in an article on www.ihire.com.
Acknowledge that you’ve fallen out of contact. You don’t need to make excuses for why you haven’t stayed in touch, but completely overlooking a time gap in your communication isn’t an option, either. Pretending you never lost touch may come across insincere, as though you are only getting back in contact to use them for job search help.
Keep it short and sweet. It’s a good idea to start slow when rekindling your professional relationship with someone. If they haven’t heard from you in a while, they’re unlikely to want to spend half an hour reading your life story of the past five years. Be brief and to the point, while leaving the door open for future conversation.
Consider your tone. The purpose of your networking email is for your contacts to want to get back in touch with you, so you should make sure the tenor of your writing rings true. An email to catch up with your old boss, for example, should sound more formal than an email to an old colleague.
Don’t assume anything. When composing your opening, reference your relationship with your contact without asking whether they remember you. Using the phrases “Remember me?” or “You probably don’t remember me, but…” devalues your connection with that person by suggesting you may not have been important enough to be memorable. On the other hand, if you assume they recognize your name without further context and they don’t, the situation may become awkward.
Don’t make it all about you. A networking email needs to recognize that professional connections are a two-way street, so make sure the email to your old colleague or boss does more than request job search
help for yourself. You might congratulate them for a new promotion or invite them to lunch, but make sure you’re not just asking for favors without offering something in return.
And their best piece of advice: Don’t fail to maintain the relationship. Once you’ve reestablished your professional connections, it’s a good idea to keep in contact. Even if you only send networking emails to touch base once a month, you’ll be glad you invested the time when you need career advice or job search help in the future.
Do some research before making contact e.g. In the instance of long lost contacts (or even more current ones) this is important. Imagine reaching out to someone and mentioning their deceased spouse in the present tense! The key is to make your note exclusively about the person with whom you wish to re-connect. Most people will reciprocate with the question “What’s going on in your life?” If they don’t, then the relationship holds little value, or the person is just not interested. Either way, refrain from talking about yourself until your question is reciprocated.
Most people enjoy re-connecting with individuals from past jobs, networking groups, etc. However, to increase the likelihood of an individual responding to your message, your approach should be authentic and reeking of reciprocity. Remember, you must make it clear how your outreach benefits them. Otherwise you’re simply wasting your time.
Getting started on your re-connect trail should be easy.
1. List who you remember as people who can help you.
2. Do your research about them (LinkedIn is a good place to start).
3. Determine how you can help them.
4. Have a plan for sustaining the contact.
5. Get that email out there!
EBR Consulting wishes you the best in this endeavor and if you are really struggling, we’ll be glad to help.
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