Let’s follow-up on the last time we examined the topic of networking and established three myths:
- It’s only for extroverts.
- It’s all about collecting cards.
- You need to sell, sell, sell … yourself.
The truths behind each of these myths points to one overarching reality: It’s not worth showing up to a networking event if you don’t plan to follow-up with the people you meet afterwards.
Truth 1. What good are an introvert’s listening skills if they don’t leverage the information they gathered later?
Truth 2. What good is collecting the card if it’s buried in a desk drawer pile?
Truth 3. Why bother to explain your skills and experience to people you’ll never see again?
Our myth-busting has proven that networking is all about building long-term relationships – something that can’t be accomplished by exchanging business cards and/or talking all night about ourselves. But it can be accomplished by taking the next step in networking – to follow-up.
The Networking Follow-up
A few days after meeting someone at a business event, send a connection request to them on LinkedIn. Reflect on what you discussed previously. They may have mentioned a work problem they need help with – offer an idea or two related to your knowledge base. And leave it at that. People appreciate knowing you’re thinking of them and not expecting anything in return. When they do need someone of your expertise, you’ve reserved yourself a spot on their radar.
Remember to keep it personal, too. If you talked about a shared interest, say, running, ask if they have any 5Ks coming up. Invite them to join you for a morning jog. If a business connection evolves into something more than just an exchange of skills and ideas, it’s more likely to last.
Some people go so far as to create a spreadsheet to track each networking connection: their name, business title, personal interests, family info, etc. While this process may seem a bit, well, geekish, it definitely has its merits for the memory challenged (and who isn’t these days with all the balls we have in the air?).
The Virtues of a Virtual Network
Not every connection is made at Chamber After Hours events or industry conventions. More business people are building their network online. Research social media groups related to your industry to find people you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is where people build their brand, leading to job offers or increased clients if a business owner.
Don’t send them the generic LinkedIn “will you accept my invitation?” message. Customize your invite by writing something along the lines of, “Say, I read your piece on (whatever website, blog or social media account) and would love to learn more about your thoughts concerning (whatever their expertise is). Your invite is now personalized and more likely to get accepted.
I’ve Sent a Networking Follow-up on LinkedIn, Now What?
You can send 10 invitations a day, but a lame profile might slam the door to an acceptance.
Increase interest in your profile by:
- Including a professional photo.
- Write a summary! Too many people skip this easy opportunity to showcase themselves with a few bullet points about their experience and skills.
- Employers want to see a lot of endorsements. Increase your list by asking friends, former co-workers and others to write one, and most importantly, endorse others. They will likely return the favor.
- You can even create a custom LinkedIn URL. This boosts search engine success.
I Have Lots of LinkedIn Contacts, Now What?
That brand building stuff doesn’t happen unless you’re active on the site.
- Congratulate others on milestones you’re notified about (work anniversaries, promotions, job changes, etc.).
- Like, comment on or share a post by contacts to keep the relationship active.
- Post your own. Share your knowledge and skill set to attract employer interest. For some that may sound intimidating or time consuming, but it can be as simple as:
a.) Sharing an industry-related article you found interesting.
b.) Writing a brief advice-related post. Original content is more likely to get read.
c.) Posting a personal video. LinkedIn studies prove original video is the best way to drive traffic. Have smartphone, can post: Less than two minutes is best with your main message expressed right away to grab the viewer’s attention.
Most successful executives credit relationships for their career progress. The easiest way to connect with people for work-related reasons is to keep it real. Be yourself, care about the success of others and touch base. Once a month, quarterly – just keep in touch. It’s that simple.