How to Double Your Networking Impact
In the professional world, it’s about who you know. You have to have the right skills, but you also need to know the right person to open the door to that next opportunity. A good relationship and a helpful contact can put your resume at the top of the pile. The question is how to get there, especially if you are already meeting people, but aren’t sure what comes next. So you’ve grabbed coffee or met someone at a happy hour — now what?
There are three things that you should do: take notes, send a hand-written card, and then keep in touch. Remember, networking is a long game. You want to build a positive, long-lasting impression. Trying to quickly use a new contact to land you that desperately-needed job will come off as needy and rude. No one likes to be used, and people can smell that from miles away.
So, first things first. Take notes after you first meet someone. But do it later. Don’t be a weirdo trying to take notes on the back of someone’s business card while they’re right in front of you (yes, a few people do that). Instead, after your conversation take some notes about the person you just met as if they were going to be your next best friend. Sure you need the basics — their name, who they work for, and where you met. But that is not enough.
You need to treat them the way you would want to be treated. You must treat them as a human being that you care about because they are a fellow professional trying to make their way in their career and in life. Of course, you hope they can open a door for you, but you cannot let that be the sole thing you think about when you interact with them. People care about their birthdays, their vacations, their personal ambitions — the daily stuff that makes up their lives. So make a note of what was important to them and what you connected on.
For instance, you like it when someone remembers that you had a trip coming up and they asked how it went, or when someone reads that article you had written or recommended. Perhaps you both share a passion for The Good Place or are reading Dune. Maybe someone recalled your grandmother was ill and inquired after her.
Write these things down. You want to show that you care about the other person and ask about one or two of these things the next time you meet. There’s a lot going on in the world and a lot of relationships to keep track of. Why not make it easier on yourself while showing that you care?
After you have taken these notes, send them a hand-written card. Very few people send those anymore, and it is a shame. Everyone likes the surprise and rush of seeing a hand-written card addressed to them in the mail. In a world of instant communication — but also of ghosting and forgetfulness — a hand-written letter is thoughtful and makes you stand out.
In your card, say it was good to meet them. Ask about one or two of those things you took notes on. They may not respond right away, or at all, but your card will stick with them. You can then proceed to follow up every couple or so months via more conventional methods like email.
The idea is to make a real connection and then to maintain that connection over time. Good networking is about planting seeds for the future. You don’t want to drop off of their radar, but you don’t want to be rude or aggressive either. Remembering important things about them and showing you care through occasional contact is the best way to do this. Then, one day, when an opportunity comes up, it will be natural for you to ask them about it or for them to think of you.
If you succeed in life, someone else will ask for your help one day. Hopefully, you will be in a position to open doors and provide guidance to someone who will remind you of you. And you would rather be reminded of someone who was thoughtful than someone who just wanted to score a quick connection for a job. Good networking means being a decent human being, not looking at people as a means to an end.