Networking Hack #1 – Make it Easy for Others to Help You

Have you sent lots of networking emails but gained little traction?

Have you set up networking meetings that ended with no job prospects?

Sometimes feeling like the resume guy in the cartoon?

Unfocused Networking

Chances are you are not doing it right. To have high request response rate and productive networking meetings, think of ways that are convenient for others to help you. First, you must know what you want to achieve from the meeting, then incorporate the purpose in the introduction email, and lastly follow up with easy to execute plans. All these ideas are drawn from my personal experience of being on both sides and lessons passed down from the wise.

Network with a clear purpose

Networking meeting should always start with a purpose, which will help you narrow down what information you are seeking and who to talk to. A networking meeting without a well-thought-out purpose is a waste of time for both parties. Moreover, it is quite likely that the connection won’t even accept the request in the first place since he/she might be wondering “why me?” Thus, you should never network just to check the box. Instead, take the opportunity to explore topics such as “Does the company has the roles that fit my background and career aspirations”, “Does the team has the right culture that aligns with my personality”, etc. Further, networking does not need to be limited to job searching. You could also learn from those with intriguing career paths and get mentored.

Once you determine what questions to ask, set up meetings with those that could give you the answers. Linkedin is usually a great resource to research and gauge if one is the right connection. Relevance of one’s background to your networking purpose always matters more than the title he/she holds. No matter what decision-making power he/she has, if you are a strong candidate for a job, eventually your resume will be passed onto the hiring manager. It happens a lot in my office that if there is an opening on the team, the hiring manager will ask everyone if they know any good candidate. What’s more, you could always start with the junior analysts to “knock out the basics” and then to move up to people at the senior level to understand the team culture and strategy.

Articulate the purpose in the introduction email

With the purpose in mind, you narrow down the list of connections. Now it is time to set up a meeting. However, in the initial email, sometimes networkers fail to explain clearly how the request relates to the connection. I have outlined two requests that I encountered and my initial reactions. I have abbreviated the emails and kept them anonymous.

Case A

Email: “…. I am an international student looking for advice…”

Reaction: What particular areas of advice are you looking for? Academic? Adapting to the US culture? Job search? Leadership? What’s more, even under each area, there are multiple subtopics. For example, under job search, stand-alone topics could include networking, getting interview invites and interviewing. When the topic is too general, I will be at a loss about where to start and uncertain about how much time commitment the meeting is going to be.

Case B

Email: “… I am looking to move to Houston to start my career in finance. I am wondering if you have any advice or know anyone I should reach out to as I begin my application process…”

 Reaction: This should be a direct request for an informational interview, where I could learn more about your background. You could tell me what finance jobs are of interest and what companies you have looked into in Houston. What’s more, I am more likely to introduce you to my connections once I get to know you beyond the email.

Knowing that I could have high expectations, I nevertheless responded to both emails. However, there is room for improvement to eliminate any potential questions from the connection.

Propose specific actions in the follow-up email 

After the networking meeting, if you are interested in potential employment, propose ways that the connection could easily take part in. I have outlined a couple of actions and their enhanced versions.

Scenarios Actions Further Improvement
Available job posting of interest Tell the connection you have applied Email the connection a job description with your resume so he/she could forward directly to hiring managers
No job posting of interest at the moment Thank you email to show appreciation Commit to check back with the connection later, specify what types of position you are interested in and include the resume, in case he/she could forward your resume to other companies that are hiring

Overall, you should bear in mind the goal of minimizing the amount of work your connection needs to do.

We could all agree that people are more likely to act upon something if the undertaking is easy with clear directions. Our connections have competing priorities in life that they could easily say no to the meetings, since they don’t have any obligation to volunteer their time. Invest time and efforts in making it easier for others to help, such as knowing what you want to gain from the meeting and writing clear introduction and follow-up emails. In that way, you are more likely to get what you want.

Bonus – if you could read Chinese, below is a great article that inspires me to write this post. Although some points are overlapping, I try to make my examples as relevant as possible to college recruiting. I believe it is through concrete examples that one really learn to practice the ideas.

P.S. I will try to get back to my publishing consistency of every other Sunday evening. If you don’t want to miss a post in case I am behind schedule, be sure to sign up for notification via email. In “Hack #2” post, I will share my ideas of “giving” in the networking dynamic. Stay tuned!

5 thoughts on “Networking Hack #1 – Make it Easy for Others to Help You

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