We have all been there. We notice that one of our friends or colleagues is connected to someone we have just got to know because we admire that person’s company, what he does, her industry- whatever.
In this not-so-new-anymore age of social media, it’s often the case that our little black book of contacts is quite literally an open book.
This means an infinite playground of possibility in terms of networking, right, Jill?
Not so fast. Some of my clients who are in the process of changing careers have asked me how to ask for an introduction and followup with the intro if it’s made (more on that later), so I’m breaking down some dos and don’ts for everyone here.
- Use Common Sense: There are various opinions on this and obviously each circumstance is different, but as a general rule of thumb, if you’ve never met the person you want to ask for an introduction face to face, don’t ask, unless you’ve had a long-standing, highly beneficial virtual relationship. And after that, use your judgment. Meeting once during a speed networking session at an event probably doesn’t count either. If you’re unsure, ask your mentor or coach or employ the “reasonable person” rule. If a reasonable person would be ok with the ask, then it’s probably ok.
- Be Strategic: Maybe your friend or colleague has five people you want to be introduced to. Prioritize and ask for an introduction to one or two- unless they offer, of course. Depending on your ask and goals, you could also frame the conversation as, for example, “I’m looking to speak with anyone with recent experience in digital sales for media and marketing companies,” and who knows- maybe they’ll list a bunch of people. Point is- let it come from them in that case.
- Be Specific. Ok, so you’re ready to make the ask. Do the work for your askee! Explain why you think the connection would be fruitful for the person they are introducing you to (WIIFM?) and you can even go a step further and write a sample introduction email for your friend/colleague! It’s the little things, people.
- The Followup: Again, use your judgment here. If it’s a good friend, you can prod a little bit if the intro doesn’t happen. And make it clear from the get-go that if they don’t feel comfortable doing it to say so. If it’s a networking contact or former colleague, for example, one followup is ok – maybe they forgot or got overwhelmed with a project or things have been busy at home- but much more than that and you run the risk of misreading social cues or otherwise being pesky.
But how can you eliminate a lot of the guesswork and ‘using your judgment’ advice I mentioned earlier? By keeping up with your network naturally. You won’t have to worry whether you’re imposing or how to handle it- the approach will be laid out before you!