Our species has perfected the hardware and software aspects of networking – but the wetware upgrades are incomplete, and the end users need training

So let’s say you’re a student preparing to enter the workforce, ready to network. You have a LinkedIn profile and the names of potential sources in your field. Just fire off an email and invite them to coffee – right?

Not so fast.

These aren’t non-player characters in a video game, handing out magic talismans and hints to each adventurer who stumbles past. They’re people with piles of obligations and precious little free time, and let’s be blunt they owe you nothing.

But here’s the good news: Many of them want to pay their success forward. Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected, has hints to help networking newbies activate that goodwill.

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Be prepared

Before you meet, use your “instant access to anyone” technology to research your contact so you can skip over the basic, open-ended questions (“How did you get started in this field?”) and “impress me with how much you know about me”, says Zack.

(Anti-creeper pro tip: Keep the focus on your contact’s public accomplishments and field of study – not memorising the names and ages of their kids and pets.)

Keep your initial email or phone call short and to the point, though polite

Be specific

Be clear about what you hope to gain from the encounter, such as suggestions on skills to acquire or blogs to follow. Keep your initial email or phone call short and to the point, though polite. If your contact was recommended by a mutual connection, says Zack, lead with that information.

Make it easy to say yes

You may think inviting a contact to dinner is generous, but it’s not realistic for most busy professionals. But, Zack notes, almost anyone can make time for a 10-minute phone call. Make yourself available, make the most of the time you’re granted, and let your contact take the lead on offering more.

Don’t give up – follow up

“Time flows very differently for job seekers,” Zack says. Professional contacts are busy and overwhelmed, so “don’t write them off if you haven’t heard back from them… you might find a reason to reach out a few months down the road.”

Of course, you will have sent a thank-you email long before then.

Be gracious

When approaching a potential contact, Zack says to ask yourself, “How can I position myself as someone helpful?” Granted, if you’re still a student, you probably won’t have industry connections or insider knowledge to offer. But you can still make small gestures that show you’re “tuned in, generous and going the extra step,” Zack says.

If you pay attention, you can pick up information to help you find a small gift or recommend a restaurant or bingeworthy Netflix series relevant to your contact’s interests. After a thank-you message, “I thought you might like this” is one of the best excuses to follow up.

By Karla L. Miller, first published on ‘Washington Post’.

Author: ANA Newswire