Dear Shannon: How can I get a 'yes' from my network?

Dear Shannon

Dear Shannon: How can I get a 'yes' from my network?

Dear Shannon,

I don’t think I’ve been leveraging my professional network as well as I could. I know a number of people who may be able to help me develop in my career, but I’m just not sure how to best reach out to them. Networking can be intimidating and time consuming. Do you have any advice on how to reach out to my network and ask for favors?

Thanks,

Andrew

Shannon Houde: Andrew,

More than 50 percent of jobs are landed due to personal connections or referrals, so it is crucial to leverage your network of contacts for your professional development. Even though many people find networking to be intimidating, you don’t have to worry. Reaching out to your network doesn’t have to be scary and salesy. Think of it as a mutual friendship where you are simply reconnecting or offering something in exchange for a favor. You have to give a little to get a little.

Here are some simple "dos and don’ts" to keep in mind when reaching out to your network. 

Do target the right people first

The best way to get results from your "hit list" is to prioritize the people who know you personally. Reaching out to second-degree connections on LinkedIn is a bit further fetched. People are busy enough with the people they do know. Unless that person is truly spot on for your target audience, it’s better to prioritize the people you know first.

Do get the intel

Make sure you have as much information as possible to bring to your conversation. Do your research on your contact, their company, competitors and relevant articles to their areas of interest before picking up the phone. Ask yourself questions such as, "What is their need for a resource?" and "How do I fill that need?" Depict yourself as a new asset on the horizon they can make use of.

Do give to get

Networking should be a two-way street. When you reach out, send your audience something of interest to them or their business such as competitor insight, sector white paper, article, conference or legislation. Refer them to a lead by helping with new customers, funding or finding top talent. Or simply offer a favor in exchange for their help. My Southern mother always taught me, "Never show up empty-handed!"

Don't ask your contact to do the work

If you are going to reach out to people you know for introductions, you need to make this as pain-free and as easy for them as possible.

  1. Start by identifying who you want them to introduce you to from their network. Do not put the onus on them to dig up names from their internal database of contacts.
  2. You need to write the script. Make it easy for your contact to literally cut and paste a blurb they can use to introduce you. 

I had a client who wanted to work with National Geographic, and one of my best friends works there. She wrote this for me to cut and paste into my intro:

I have a client that is curious about who to talk to at National Geographic. Can you help? Her name is ___ and she wants to connect about Nat Geo's work in relation to education, children and human rights as she has recently been advising the EU and UNICEF on strategic partnerships. Check out her profile on LinkedIn. 

She has led global programs up to $3.5M for the empowerment of women and girls, social inclusion, education and early childhood development for brands such as PwC, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, DFID, UNESCO, UNICEF and Save the Children.  

Let me know if this is too random and feel free to say "no go, I get too many of these every week." :) Otherwise, thanks in advance for your help. Hope to see you on my next trip to DC.

Don't send a resume or CV

Instead of sending a resume, it’s better to attach a 2,000-character bio. This should tell a strong story about why you have credibility in the market so that you look like a reputable contributor, not a desperate job seeker. Remember that you can also point them to your LinkedIn profile, which in essence is a public resume anyway.

In this first outreach, you should always outline the results that you will deliver for them. For help, you can use my One Page Job Proposal tool for this. It focuses on the employer’s needs — not the job seeker, a fresh concept — is not a dry resume and looks to the future rather than the past. 

Don't shy away

Steve Jobs called his first investor 532 times before he got his first nibble. If you feel yourself shying away or losing confidence because you didn’t get immediate positive results or feedback, that’s a sign to push forward, dive in and push through those fears. Resilience and determination win out in today’s market. But remember: For this to work, you need to believe there is a fit and that you will be able to offer something of value in exchange for your request.

Do follow up

Here are three scenarios of follow-up and next steps to keep in mind.

  1. If nothing happens even though there appears to be a fit, call again in two weeks. People are busy and sometimes your message gets lots in the bottom of the email ether. Follow up by phone, though. Find their number and make it happen live. Connect as a human, not as one of 100 emails in their inbox. Remember Steve Jobs above.
  1. If nothing happens because there is no fit, let it go and move on to the next one. Don’t waste your time chasing rainbows. Focus instead on the low-hanging fruit where there is synergy and you can "give to get."
  1. If you haven’t found the fit, keep looking, calling and reaching out until you find it. You’ll need to kiss 100 frogs before you find your prince or princess.

I know networking can be daunting, but it is such an important part of every job search.  Remember to think of it as "making new friends" where it is a two-way street — they need you as much as you need them.

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