There are a few steps you can take both before and after you meet someone that can help you stand out from the crowd. The ability to connect and communicate with your past, present, and future contacts is crucial to expanding your network and maintaining opportunities for self growth.
What to do NOW: Build up your posse.
Your posse should be a group of peers, friends, mentors,and/or sponsors. They are a team of people that inspire you, motivate you, and see greatness in you. It is critical that you surround yourself with people that will only lift you higher. You will need people that you can count on to be there for you when the going gets rough. Negative peer groups can have a dramatic impact on your mindset and goals. Disassociate yourself from people who are not supporting your dreams. Life is a game, and you have the power to choose who is on your team. Choose your posse selectively.
What to do BEFORE: Take time to prepare.
Let’s say you are attending a networking event. Who is and might be attending? Could this be a potential place to find a mentor? Or maybe an opportunity to connect with a friend of a friend that you’ve been told about? If so, you should plan ahead. Come prepared with business cards at hand. (We recommend using moo.com, which had lots of cool templates and designs to choose from. Don’t be boring when you can be extraordinary, even when it comes to business cards.) If you are looking to speak to someone in particular, be informed about their work and what they are most passionate about. Have a few questions in mind to ask them before you meet them.
Another quick way to prepare yourself is to explore on LinkedIn. (Check out the activity called “Study The Stars” at the end of this blog!) Send messages to connect with people you admire. Be sure to edit the message space that LinkedIn provides when you connect to show that you are not a robot and to explain your connection with them and why you think they are awesome. And don’t freak out- it’s okay that they see that you viewed their profile. It’s also okay to tell them that you admire them. Who doesn’t like to be complemented? Also remember that on LinkedIn, your name, title, and profile picture will the first thing they see, so make sure it is all appropriate and up to date!
What to do AFTER: Keep in touch.
So you met all of these amazing people… Now what? The real work begins. After you meet someone that you would like to join “your posse,” emailing is an easy, personal, and professional way to keep in touch. Email etiquette, however, is very important. There are 5 basic rules for students when contacting professionals:
- Have a clear and concise subject line. No essays please.
- Use a tone of voice that is appropriate; Be you, but also be aware of your tone on email and how things might come across. Ask a friend to proofread your email before you click “send!”
- Don’t use abbreviations and emoticons with professional contacts. Just to be safe, keep it emoji and slang word free.
- Respond in a timely fashion. Stick to 24 hours. If you forget to respond, the window is not completely closed- just reply back to them as soon as you can! A late follow up is better than no follow up.
- Include a clear and concise signature with social media profiles and personal contact information in case they need to reach you.
The most important rule: Keep in touch. Schedule times to meet up. Send emails to check in. Text (if appropriate). Give them a call. It is your job to follow up and be in touch with them and maintain the relationship.
Got questions? Tweet questions to @JoanKuhl using #Passion2Action!
#Passion2Action | ACTION ITEM: Study the Stars!
Look through profiles and find profiles and people you admire. Look at their career paths. Study each person’s journey: What led them to their current job? Did they stick to one company? What did they study in school? Choose two aspirational profiles (Individuals who are at least 2-3 levels above an entry level position) and one closer to your stage (recent graduates). YES, this does mean that they will get a notification that says you have viewed their profile. Don’t be embarrassed. It is flattering to them! Just make sure that your profile is up to date in case they click on your profile to learn more about you!
Extra tip: NEED AN INTERNSHIP THIS SUMMER? Use the Study the Stars method to find people that are working within a field that you are interested in. Find friends that have connections to companies you want to work with, and then send them a message!