Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What NOT to do when networking

With only about 30% of all jobs posted online, networking is the best way to get a job. And as I share in my book, the best way to network as a college student is to ask professionals you admire for advice. The formula is pretty simple:

1. Say why you admire them.
2. Ask to meet with them for 10-15min to learn more about them & their job.
3. Leave an easy way for them to make the appointment. 

I've used this formula over and over again. From winning a $110,000 scholarship to now being able to live my dreams working from home, the mentors I found through my career center, mutual friends, and social media changed my life

However, now that I have progressed in my professional career, I am now on the other end of those e-mails, with students asking me for help and professionals asking me for business. 

Most of the e-mails I get from students are genuine asks for help, and I love nothing more than carving out 10 minutes of my day to e-mail them back a heartfelt answer.

But there are some e-mails that don't warm my heart. There are some that are just plain annoying. And trust me - you do not want to be one of the annoying people when it comes to building relationships. Because whether or not that person can help you get a job right away, you never know how they could affect your professional life in the long term. 

Below are the worst types of e-mails I get. I wish I could show you examples of the ones I receive, but I can't because these types of e-mails get deleted immediately. You do not want to be one of these people:

1. The Generic. These are the form e-mails that people send out in mass, without any personalization. Something like "Hi friend - I've read your blog and I think you would love for me to write an article for it as I have a lot to say about your topic." 

Any e-mail sent in mass is not worth sending. Personalize any e-mail request you ever send to a specific person. Use their name, and do your research so you have something unique to say to show them you care about who they are and what they do. 

2. The Me Me Me. These are the e-mails that devote a few words to the recipient of the e-mail, and then go on and on about themselves and their work and what they want. They share too much about their accomplishments just for the sake of it, and by the end of the e-mail you can tell they've never actually done any research on you, have any interest in what you do, and are just trying to get something from you and benefit from the work you have already done. They seem like they are trying to take a short cut.

Getting advice is a short cut, the best kind, but you can never seem like you're trying to take an easy route. The way to avoid this is to dedicate 90% of your e-mail to genuinely complimenting the person you want advice from on their work. If you can't do that, then you're e-mailing the wrong person.

3. The Too Much Too Soon. This is the kind of e-mail where someone asks for a huge favor before taking the time to get to know someone first. You can't e-mail a stranger and ask them to edit five scholarship essays for you. Your first encounter should be for the sole purpose of you listening to that person and learning from their experience, and for no longer than 15 minutes (unless they insist they can spend more time with you). 

The more a person talks in a conversation, the better he or she feels afterwards; studies show that the person who talks the most rates the conversation the highest. So when you're networking initially, ask lots of questions and let other people talk about themselves. You will make them feel great, and when they feel great about the conversations they have with you, they will want to bend over backwards to help you. 

In short, the longer you spend building a genuine relationship with a person, the more vibrant and beneficial your relationship will be. 

There are no "vegas weddings" in networking. Real networking happens over time, and feels more like friendship than a business exchange. 

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