Networking hacks part 2- Contacting your network
In our first blog post on this topic we talked about the benefits of networking and how to make your contact list. In this blog we look at contacting the list.
Your list will contain people you know quite well (friends, work colleagues etc.), those you know less well (accountant, dentist etc.), and those you do not know at all (to whom you are referred by others). You may feel more confident contacting some of these groups than others.
In our experience most people like to talk about their experience and their work and respond positively any advances that draw on their expert knowledge. You should therefore have a good response as long as you are clear about what it is you want from them. If someone on your list says they don’t have time check back on their understanding of the advice you are seeking and clarify your requirements if necessary. If the contact still says they aren’t able to help, don’t push it. Thank them and move on. Don’t get disheartened but get straight back to the next person on your list – these things happen.
Generally the best idea is to telephone your contact first and then try to arrange a face-to-face meeting. In some circumstances you may feel more comfortable, (especially with contacts you do not know) writing an introductory email. This will need to be followed up by a telephone call.
Generally the best idea is to telephone your contact first and then try to arrange a face-to-face meeting. In some circumstances you may feel more comfortable, (especially with contacts you do not know) writing an introductory email This will need to be followed up by a telephone call. These three methods are discussed below.
You need to prepare carefully for each of your contacts by preparing notes prior to contacting them outlining:
- How you will introduce yourself – that is, the purpose of the contact, your background and what you are seeking from them.
- Know what specific information you are seeking from each contact (for general information, because their knowledge and experience would be helpful, specific industry information etc.).
- Have a concise overview of yourself prepared to enable them to get a feel for you. Be able to briefly and succinctly outline your background experience, education, key skills, and career goals
In an email this may look something like this:
Dale Simpson has suggested I contact you as I am looking to get an overview of current industry expectations around instructional designer skills and knowledge.
It was great to meet you at the Online Design AITD session last August and chat about the future of e-learning. The reason for my contacting you is ….
I have been working for a large corporate in a management position for 15 years but would like to explore doing independent consulting or working for a small business. I have some skills in online development (mainly SWAY and HOWTOO) but am keen to know what skill sets industry is currently looking for. If you had some time to meet for a coffee or chat by phone I would really appreciate it.
I will give you a follow up call in a few days to see if we can sync our calendars for a suitable time to chat.
Think about and overcome your reluctance to contact people. Remember you are not asking for a job or for a favour other than to share their knowledge and experience – you are gathering information.
Ensure you have prepared what you will say and have a script at hand to refer to.
- Follow good telephone techniques
- Know and use the name of the person who referred you initially if the call is to a contact you don’t know directly
- Be polite, but do ask for the opportunity to meet briefly. Try to arrange it when it best suits them so that you will have their full attention. Make sure you exchange mobile phone numbers.
- If you reach voice mail, leave a very brief message with your name, what you are calling about and your return phone number. It is always a good idea to say you will try to contact them again, and persist in doing so rather than leaving it up to them to call you back.
- Keep the phone call brief and to the point. Make it clear from the outset what you are seeking and that you are NOT asking for a job.
What do you want to say? Write out your script and have it in front of you when you make the call.
Be confident you only want their advice, and the rewards for making the call may be immense. You need to overcome any resistance you have to speaking with people you know or do not know about your situation. Remember the reason for making contact accessing the vast hidden job market full of opportunities you will never see or hear about unless you take steps to access it. Utilising your contacts is something you probably do every day when you have business issues to be solved treat this in the same manner.
Making the Call
For someone you know well
“Hi Jan, I don’t know if you are aware of my current situation but due to a restructure at work I am seeking a new position. I am currently exploring my options and doing research as I am looking at exploring industries other than Finance. I was hoping we might get together for a quick coffee chat - say 15 minutes sometime over the next few weeks as I am looking to learn more about your industry and get some advice. I want to ensure I make an informed decision and would appreciate speaking to you so I can learn”
For someone you know less well
“Hi Paul, This call is to ask a favour. I am currently assessing my career and where I want it to progress and would really appreciate 10¬-15 minutes of your time to gain an insight into the knowledge you have in the field of communications. If I could draw on some of your expertise that would really assist me in my research”
For someone you do not know
“Hi Gail, My name is Paul Smith and Ben Lagado gave me your name and contact details . The reason for the call is that I am considering a career change and am seeking to speak to some people with extensive experience in the social media marketing field. Ben suggested you might be willing to spare 10-15 minutes to have a quick discussion with me”
For further tips on the networking meeting itself and building and maintaining your network, check out our Networking Hacks Part 3.