So you’ve attended a networking event and collected a large pile of business cards. What’s your next move? Sitting back and waiting for your phone to ring and emails to flood your inbox with job offers will waste an opportunity to interact further with your new contacts and potentially boost your job search. Take a proactive and strategic approach to follow up networking contacts instead and get the most value out of your new relationships.
Millions of vacancies are never formally advertised. The so-called ‘hidden job market’ now accounts for up to 80% of hires, according to some estimates. A key way of discovering these secret roles is through networking. This enables you to connect with people who know about these unadvertised roles.
There are two stages to networking – the initial meeting and the follow-up. If you’re someone who starts off with the best intentions to follow up networking contacts but fails to do so, here are some tips to help.
Don’t leave it to long to follow up networking contacts
Reconnect promptly with new networking contacts. This sends a positive message about your proactivity and willingness to invest time and effort into building a relationship. Prioritise people, and get in touch with the most relevant contacts within a few days.
Establish your goal before making contact
Make sure you are clear about why you want to follow up networking contacts and what you want to achieve. It could be:
- For referrals to other professionals who could assist your job search.
- For insight into their company, field of industry or their experience to help hone your targeting
- To enquire about vacancies with their company and hopefully land a job interview.
Don’t come across as too demanding. Networking is about building genuine relationships, not just asking for favours.
Depending on what your goal is, you could invite them for coffee, send them a link to an article on a shared interest or update them on your progress with someone they referred to you.
Make it memorable for the right reasons
To help your contact remember who you are, refer to something you spoke about when you met. Depending on the information they shared with you, this could be personal or professional. Being able to incorporate this information will demonstrate you were listening to and interested in what they said.
Make notes on what they said after the event to aid your recall. With practice you’ll become skilled at asking and remembering key facts to use when following up with someone.
If you can’t remember what you talked about, search online for information about your connection to refer to instead.
Use the best method
- Email is an ideal method for reconnecting with someone. Write a clear, concise and attention-grabbing subject line to stand out in their inbox and avoid ending up in the spam box. Here are some example follow-up emails to start you off.
- You can also connect via LinkedIn. Include a private message saying how much you enjoyed meeting them at the event.
- A phone call is good for communicating high energy and positive attitude, and can encourage the conversation to keep going.
Whatever method you use to reconnect with a networking contact, remember to have a clear objective, personalise your communication. And always suggest a next step (eg coffee, more information).