Networking: Expanding Your Culture
In 20 Questions to Ask When Networking, we delved into making connections that can help you steer your career in the right direction. But after you’ve asked questions, researched the types of positions you want, and let your inner circle know that you’re job searching, what’s the next step? This article dives into the next phase; we explore how to expand your circle to reach professionals you might not know personally. We will also offer some examples of effective ways to make connections.
Making Cold Introductions Feel Warm
Cold calls can send chills up your spine if you are not a natural extrovert. While LinkedIn is a forum for professionals to make connections, there is etiquette to follow so that you don’t come across as “spammy” and self-interested. There’s also a bit of an art to enticing someone to take time from their busy schedule to connect with you. First, to level-set: do not expect all, or even most, people to respond. Do not take the absence of a response personally or allow it to deter you. Some people are simply not frequently active on the platform. Sometimes it is simply timing. You will eventually find some people willing to help if you take an approach that is tempered with honesty, finds some common ground around a shared interest or goal, and shows appreciation for their insight and opinions. Be friendly, kind, and a little persistent; you can gain the insights you seek and possibly begin a great friendship.
On LinkedIn, you don’t get to connect with people without permission. You need to invite them, and you get 300 characters to do so. You’ve got to be brief and to the point but also compelling and creative. Let’s start with finding that common ground.
Scenario: You’ve identified a LinkedIn contact that is in a role like the one you are exploring. You’d love to learn more from them, but it’s not someone in your circle of connections.
The first step is to put yourself in their shoes.
The Hook: Connect to your audience by relating to a problem, pain point, or feeling. You don’t have to pretend to have any answers; you are reaching for common ground to open a conversation. In this way, when you ask for their time, it’s about something more than your personal learning agenda. It beats, “I am looking for a job and want to pick your brain,” because no one is sitting around wanting their brain picked. Most professionals are engaged in their daily business and the challenges they face.
Your Line: Your line must come from your genuine interest. That doesn’t mean it can’t be creative.
Consider these approaches.
- Dig for common-ground emotions.
As a soon-to-be grad, I’m excited and relieved. But I still wake up at night with my wheels spinning. Did you have those moments? Hi, I’m (first name), and I’d love to connect with you and learn more about your field of expertise.
- Tap facts highlighting common pains and call out the “elephant in the room.”
My research shows that the job, while a great way to start, can be stressful. As someone looking for a career in (x), I’ve got butterflies. I’m not afraid of hard work, but I was wondering if you would be willing to shed some light on your biggest hurdles.
- Use humor.
Find a funny meme or cartoon about office life or your field. Be sure it is politically correct, of course.
Hi, (first name), just wondering if this is an accurate depiction of your day?
I’m (first name), looking to launch my career in the field of X, and I’d love to get your thoughts on the “Real World of being a (position/job title).” Can we connect?
Thank you is always in fashion. So, you’ve made your invitation memorable, and someone was impressed enough to hit “connect.” What next? You’ll want to send a note of gratitude back. First, express your appreciation for their time and a kind word about why you value their opinion. You’ll also want to put forth a few teasers to spark their interest or share anything you might have found in common.
Anticipate a Great Conversation
Chatting can be enjoyable and productive. Remember to explore common connections and keep them personable. As you sense the doors of dialogue open, you have the floor to ask your list of twenty questions and perhaps even probe deeper as the conversation organically evolves.
Real conversations with people who are “living the dream” can truly help you gain clarity about the work environment that aligns most with your desires. Networking takes a little preparation, but it’s worth investing the effort to set yourself up for success and happiness in your career.
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