Picture the moment. You’ve successfully made it through endless career fairs, on-campus receptions and/or events hosted by major employers. You’ve been handing out endless copies of your resume, shaking hands, answering questions about what you’re studying (or planning to pursue), nodding politely and making small-talk….so now what? Kick back and put your feet up? Nope. Sorry. The networking component of your college experience is far from over (and I’m not referencing the summer internships you may be still trying to land). The next networking item on your to-do list is to start reaching out to those you’ve met and spoken with.
I want to prevent you from making the single biggest mistake in building your professional network: the failure to follow-up.
Not following-up on an introduction, referral or even, a conversation you’ve had with someone, is a missed opportunity for your career. Actually, an incredibly big missed network-building opportunity. Following-up is what separates those who get the “lucky breaks” from everyone else. Following-up ensures someone in your network wants to help you again in the future. Repeat recommendations are gold in the currency of social capital. Committing to the follow-up – on conversations you’ve already had – is a smarter networking strategy than constantly filling your calendar with one-and-done-wonder-if-these-will-lead-to-anything conversations. Following-up is courteous too.
Now for some practical how-to guidance on the follow-up (before you drop the ball on this) with the understanding that in this process of sending out follow-up notes you may think of other overlooked relationships to reach out to with a “I’ve been meaning to get back to you” type message.
Who did you meet? Follow up with a courteous “it was nice to be introduced to you” or “appreciated the reception you hosted” email. If you didn’t get a business card, find necessary contact info on the company website (email addresses!) is conveniently located there. Didn’t catch someone’s last name? Ask other’s who attended the event or even the organizer of the event.
Did you have a lengthy conversation with one particular person? Think about dropping them a handwritten note letting them know how much you enjoyed the exchange and perhaps detailing additional thoughts you’ve had on the subject matter. Sending a handwritten note may sound old-school, however, it is radical in effectiveness, as very few people will actually take the time to do this. Again, refer to the companies website for office addresses (and correct spellings of names).
Did you hope to be introduced to someone but that introduction never transpired? Maybe this was the scenario at the reception: You were outlining your career path and maybe your career interests too and the contact you were chatting with said “oh, you should talk with X, her career path is similar to your aspirations and she joined the company last year, she’s standing right over there”. Then try as you might throughout the entire reception, you never get a chance to talk with X. Here’s what I would do: Go to X’s bio on the companies website and read up all about her. Yes, if Y gives you information about X, that is terrific. However, do your own research and collect your own facts before you draft and send X an “I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet at the party hosted last week. I was talking with Y about my career path and he suggested you as a good person to talk to as you’ve achieved what I’m striving to do” email. Outline where your career ambitions intersect with her path. Ask for suggestions on your pursuits and/or request time to speak (as fits her schedule). Be sure to send the contact you originally spoke to (and who made the suggestion to connect with X) a note after you’ve emailed or spoken with X.
Final suggestion (which I hope goes without saying): connect with those you met on LinkedIn and be sure to personalize the request to connect message. The message does not need to be lengthy, a simple reminder of where you met them or what you talked about will do.
For more on the importance of following-up, check out: