How you approach someone in your network should depend on your relationship with that person. If the person is a close friend or family member, you can call or email the person to let him or her know about your situation and ask for help. If the person is an acquaintance, it is preferable to email the person ahead of time so that he or she is not surprised.
If you send an email, don’t just ask to speak or meet with the person. You need to give more information, such as a brief introduction on why you are contacting them and why you want to speak or meet with them. A simple email can read something like this:
“Hi John, it’s Kerry. How are you doing? I’m currently looking for a position in sales and was wondering if you have time to meet over coffee. I’d like to have your input on how things are going in the industry. Thanks and looking forward to talking to you.”
Be minding when you network not to look desperate. Don’t give the impression that you are imposing any kind of obligation or expectation on the other person. Networking is about building good faith with the other person so that the other person will want to help you.
Expressing what you need is important. You need to tell the other person what kind of position you are looking for. Otherwise, how will they know? Make it easy for them. Don’t leave them wondering what you want or need. “I’m looking for a job” is not good enough. “I’m looking for a position as an administrative assistant or as a receptionist” is better.
Networking is as much about talking than listening. Listening to the other person will show that you value their time and that you are interested in what they have to say. Further, being engaged in the conversation, will allow you to uncover more information by asking pertinent questions.
If during your conversation with someone you say that you will do something, make sure to keep your word. Also, although you are asking for help, also offer your help. Networking is about give and take.
Always conduct yourself professionally when you network, even if you have a close relationship with the other person. If they are going to recommend you or put you in touch with someone, they will want to make sure that you will not make them look bad. Conducting yourself professionally means dressing the part and acting the part (keep in mind however that looking professional doesn’t mean “formal”).
Smile and try to make the interaction enjoyable. If you make the conversation interesting, the other person will be open to meeting you again. You will spark something positive in their mind. If the conversation is boring and all about you, you can be sure that you will not see your interlocutor any time soon.
Make sure to send a quick thank you note or email after you meet with someone. This is always appreciated.
by John Sylo