Everyone has told you how important it is to network. It's the number one rule that is drilled into your brain when you start as an intern and as you progress throughout your career. But we all know that sometimes it can be painfully awkward and feel forced. Here are a few tips to help make it feel natural and organic:
1. MEANINGFUL SMALL TALK
It's so easy to ask the default list of questions to a stranger such as "what do you do, where are you from, how long have you been in this role, etc." However, the answers to these questions often fade from your memory and also do not help to leave a lasting impression on the person you are speaking to. Instead, try to ask some personal questions, without being too invasive, that help you connect to the person you're speaking to, for instance:
What school did you go to? Follow up with questions about the city it's located in or something they are known for. "Oh you went to University of Chicago? Are you a deep dish or thin crust pizza person? What did you love about living in Chicago. I've went to a wedding there and loved X..."
Have you taken any fun vacations recently? Do you have any travel plans coming up?
What's your favorite restaurant in X city?
How did you meet your significant other? (Note: do not assume they have a significant other, just follow up a reference they may have made to their husband/wife)
2. FOLLOW UP THE NEXT DAY OR SHORTLY AFTER THE INITIAL MEETING WITH AN EMAIL OR LINKEDIN MESSAGE.
Hopefully, you’ve grabbed their card or taken down their email! A brief, but specific, note is the perfect way to help solidify the interaction you had. Be short and sweet and also cite a specific topic you discussed or who you were introduced to each other by or even a link to something that they might find interesting based on conversation.
Hi X, It was great meeting you last night at the networking event. I enjoyed your restaurant recommendations and can't wait to check out Palma. Hope you have a great time on your trip to Greece. Looking forward to meeting again soon. Best, A
3. STAY IN TOUCH!!!
The key to making the transition from stranger to respected colleague is in following up. It’s a delicate balance as you don’t want to pester someone especially over email, but at the same time, you want to strengthen the relationship naturally over time. The easiest way is by sending the occasional message around the holidays, organizing coffee or drinks when in town, or congratulating them on life events (promotions, marriage, babies etc.).
Hi X, it’s been a while since we last spoke. I hope you had a fun summer. I see that you recently started a new role at your firm, congrats! I’ll be in town later this month and would love to catch up over coffee. Do you have any availability? Regards, A