Building your personal network, a key career advantage, is the process of building, nurturing and serving your network.
The key to this endeavor is a process-based approach on a variety of dimensions. With a strong yet simple process, you will get more predictable and consistent results. The process here, if repeated over time, will form early habits that will serve you well.
In a nutshell:
- Make contact
- Give a business card and get a business card in return
- Send a follow up email (with context and relevancy)
- Invite them to connect via Linked-In
Now, lets move on to the SOP and dig into the process:
- Always Be Ready: Sometimes it is casual in that you meet someone at a party or when you bump into friend, other times it is a more formal setting like a job fair or a guest lecturer in your class so always be:
- Ready and open
- Intentional about this process.
- Give a Card/Get a Card: A college campus is fertile ground to build your network but shockingly most students don’t have business cards. A box of 500 in color is all of $30. Get some immediately. Make them simple. Include your:
- Email address (not that funky ‘YourCollege.edu’ that you will not use 3 years out, but one that resembles your name professionally at Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and the like)
- Cell number (and make sure your cell has a voice mail with your voice, not an automated message with your phone number)
- Bulleted Notes: In the aftermath of meeting someone, as you move away, jot down 2-4 bullets of what you discussed. That allows you to follow up with respect and context.
- Tie Down Within 12 Hours: As you turn in for the evening, or wake the next day, have a habit of checking your emails and following up on contacts you have met. Does everyone do this? No. Only exceptional people do. Here are the steps of the Tie-Down:
- Create an Outlook Contact: Enter their information into Outlook and add those bullets to the Notes section.
- Write a Relevant Email: Send them an email and mention some things that you talked about. Perhaps there are items you committed to follow-up on, or just noting points you talked about. At minimum you just say it was great meeting you and thanks. Also, state in the email that you are going to connect with them via Linked-In
- Put that email into the Notes Section of Outlook: Drag the email into the Notes section of the contact in the Windows version or copy it and paste it into the Notes section on a Mac (not sure why they don’t work the same but at this moment Outlook on the Mac lacks some functionality)
- Connect via Linked-In: Send them an invitation to connect. In that invitation overwrite the default message and personalize the invite.
- Updating: When you connect with a contact who you have not communicated with for a while, pull up their Outlook profile and check to see if all information is up to date.
If someone utilized this SOP with you, would you be impressed?
- Would you say wow, this person is on top of their game?
- Would you be impressed that what you said when you met was remembered?
- Would you say, this person is professional?
- And therefore, would you build access with them and visa-versa for years to come?
Well then just do it.
Most often I find that people are way too casual about networking. They meet great contacts and they don’t follow up/through. These contacts would be fantastic to reach out to or collaborate with in the future, but once a lot of time has passed, what could have been great connections, have become elusive.
Following up gives you access to these contacts for years to come and makes you stick out as an over-achiever. Why would this simple process mark you as an over-achiever? It is precisely because most don’t. Therefore when you follow through with excellence, in a professional way, you stand out. The great news is that it is easy to do. Adopting this procedure consistently will turn this into a life long habit.
In a previous blog I discussed the repository. After all, you have to store, access and protect this vital asset and that starts with your repository.
Finally, remember that building your personal network is about growing, nurturing and serving your network. The element of service, what you can do for others, is a massive component to assuring you are doing this for mutual benefit and your efforts are sincere.