How To Build Professional Relationships This Summer
Here’s a little secret, most professionals LOVE to help young adults who are just starting out in their careers. Don’t underestimate the lengths professionals will go to in order to help a young adult in their professional development. However, the power of networking doesn’t come from making a call, sending an email or making a LinkedIn request. It is really about investing in professional relationships! So here are our 6 tips on how to build professional relationships this summer.
One: Don’t underestimate your network. The true power of networking comes from a mutual connection or a shared experience that bonds you to another person. These commonalities will be the initial connecting point and the foundation for the relationship. These can be as simple as fellow college alums, someone that played the same sport you play, someone who interned at the same company, or a friend’s parent. You may be surprised just how many people you know.
Two: Demonstrate your communication skills and gratitude. Every interaction with a potential contact demonstrates your written and verbal communication skills. Make sure you are concise, choose professional verbiage, don’t use emojis, and sign the end every email with your contact information. Don’t text unless they text you first. All your communications should communicate your gratitude. Recognize the fact that these people are taking time out of their busy workday to meet with you so thank them for their assistance.
Three: Practice your elevator pitch. Who are you, what makes you unique and why should they care? Emailing a perfect stranger is hard, not to mention sitting across the table from them. However you will feel more confident if you have refined your message. Craft your story, your elevator pitch, in a compelling way that will not only inform but also engage the contact.
Four: Prepare! Nothing will sabotage a relationship faster than knowing nothing about the person you are meeting with. Research the person and their company, then integrate this research into the questions you ask. For example: “I saw that you started your career at McKinsey, what are the pro’s and con’s of starting your career at a consulting firm”. Take time to think about what questions you want to ask and make sure it isn’t something you can readily find online. Also prepare for the inevitable questions they will ask you. Make sure you are able to clearly state your strengths, what you are looking for, and why you are interested in a particular field.
Five: Make it easy for them. This begins with your initial email where you should include your resume and clearly state what you are looking for (i.e. advice, insight). Make yourself available and accommodate their schedule whenever possible. Ask them to choose a meeting location that is convenient for them. Always reply promptly to their emails or voice mails. Finally, don’t reschedule!
Six: Follow-up! What you do after the meeting is almost as important as what you do during the meeting. Send a thank you email within 24 hours. Reference specific advice or insight that the person gave you during your conversation and show your gratitude. Then, stay in touch with the occasional email. This can mean sharing an article you think they will find interesting, sending an update as you head back to school, or asking for follow up advice. Recognize that these people are now invested in your future success so foster their interest by staying in touch.