Dos and don’ts to connect with people you don’t know
Ten ways to connect with people you don't know
How to connect with people you don't know is a professional challenge for everyone. But it can be done. Patience, discretion and subtly are vital ingredients to the process.
One of the many challenges of being a job seeker is how to connect with people you don't know and then building a relationship. We see it on movies where the brash hard selling approach can work. We watch someone take a deep breath, feel the fear and do it anyway and all goes well. And it can ... sometimes. But usually for most of us in the big wide and often unforgiving world, the soft-sell networking approach is the best. This takes time, patience, discretion, a strategy and know how!
Here are 2 major networking don'ts
- Don't wait until you have a crisis to build your network: this is networking rule number one. If you regard networking as part of an ongoing career strategy you will never have that air of desperation. Build your relationships and always have what I call a Go To Top 10 list of contacts you can reach out to in the event of an emergency or even minor need. These contacts will have been developed over many years. They could be a coach, a mentor, a sponsor, sector and company contacts, a knowledge specialist and even your hairdresser or bank manager if the crisis is serious. Some people are so isolated even their internal network is limited.
- Don't try to sell a product or yourself (if you are the product) on the first encounter.There is nothing more off-putting than meeting someone and they immediately go into hard sell mode. It's crass and a major turn-off which gets significant publicity on all social media platforms. This can be in person or online. Just don't do it. Ever.
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Here are 10 major dos
If you are trying to build up a strategic network you should have a well thought out career plan. This means doing your inner work.You know where you are headed and have a good idea who you need to connect with.You have researched them online which today has never been easier.The first thing to do when you try to connect with someone outside your network is to be subtle. The most important thing is to express a professional interest and engage without appearing like a manic stalker. Take a long view and think big picture, rather than a clumsy reach for an early win. The beauty of this method is that at any point you meet an individual in person, you can reference a person, platform or something you have in common.
- Identify key players. Who will be helpful and interesting to you professionally? This should be in line with your professional or business goals.
- Research them. Establish if they are connected to people you already know. Ask for an introduction from an existing network connection if you can. This can be a quick and effective route. If this is a yes - fast forward to point #10 stopping by at #3 #4 #5 #7.
- Follow them on Twitter. Twitter is great for this type of connection. It is open and democratic and easy to connect with people who might be more protective on LinkedIn for example. You can "RT" and "Like" their tweets. They will receive a notification each time you do this.
- Follow them on LinkedIn. This is not the same as being a connection. A much under-used function on LinkedIn, it allows you to follow a person's updates without being a first level connection. To follow a LinkedIn member, click Follow on their profile page. If you don't see a Follow button: Click the More icon on the top portion of the person's profile. Select Follow from the drop down menu. Easy.
- Follow the company. Social media can help: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. There are lots of kernels of information here. On LinkedIn you will see a list of employees who work there.
- Comment. On any posts or updates the person might make. They should start to recognise your name. Make them constructive with no reference to any miserable job seeking plight you might be in. You can even at some later stage connect with them referencing a post you particularly enjoyed in a personal message. See point #8.
- Subscribe. Follow their blog if they have one.
- Now connect on LinkedIn: This may be several months down the line.Send a personal message. Perhaps reference your Twitter connection or that you enjoy their updates or blog. Your name will at least be familiar to them. I've connected with huge numbers from Twitter on LinkedIn and people whose updates I have appreciated.
- Consolidate the relationship over time. This depends on your goals and how the relationships is developing. Send them an article you think they may appreciate - not necessarily one that you have written yourself. See the point on being crass and self-promoting. Giving before receiving goes a long way when you connect with people you don't know - or don't know well. At one point asking if there was anything you could do for them was perceived to be a good tactic. Now it is also being considered as a pre-amble to a pitch and frequently ignored.
- Now you can ask. The best way to start is to ask for advice. This person is not your BFF. Asking for advice or inside information about a company, their culture or career opportunities is usually met with consideration.They may offer to refer you to someone else. Don't forget they are doing you a favour! Depending on the nature of the relationship you could even to progress to requesting an informational interview. Note this is not a job interview but part of the networking process where you are - guess.. asking for information. All of the above points apply here too. Appreciation of their time and effort at all points is vital.
Treating network contacts with empathy, respect and and consideration is the key driver. If it's part of your daily career management then you will be well equipped to handle any disruption.
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