It’s winter break and whether you have an amazing job or not, it’s the perfect time to invest in the one thing that is sure to pay off — building your network.
You might think you already have a great network, what with hundreds of Facebook friends and the beginnings of a LinkedIn network too. But unless you reach out and meet new people in person, your network is undernourished. It’s your job to plant new seeds and water the ones you already have — the seeds of your relationships.
Where do you start? Start with you!
Take a little time to think about what kind of job or career you might like. If you don’t know exactly, think about those whose careers seem interesting to you. Write a list of 4–5 people you already know who could tell you more about their careers and lives. Get suggestions from your parents, parents of friends, professors or others in community.
You have your target list, now reach out. The best way to get 15–20 minutes with someone is through a warm referral. People are willing to help you out people they know or friends of their contacts. In the request (email is fine) indicate why you would like to meet. The following works: I would love to learn more about working in [insert industry]. I would love to get your advice on how to pursue a career in [area of interest].
Once you have set up your meeting, do your homework. Do research online, read and learn about the person, their company and their industry. Write a list of thoughtful questions.
The key to a great meeting is genuine curiosity, good listening and a desire to learn. Make the meeting count. Be totally present and show sincere interest. You will be amazed at the treasures you will find. Always ask the key question, “Who else would you suggest that I meet?”
Now comes the most important part — follow-up. Write an email to say thank you and continue to build the relationship. If your new contact suggested other people to meet, follow-up on that right away. If you can think of ways to be helpful to your contact — do it! A young woman I met nominated me for a TEDx talk weeks after meeting me. What a special gift that I didn’t expect to receive and for which I will always be grateful. You never know ways in which you can help your contact or ways they will help you.
Be open, curious and helpful. Meeting one or two new people per week can increase your network by 20 new contacts over a 3 month time-frame! And these contacts are beginning of a vibrant network that is sure to help you!