My friend Molly’s book is coming out this week! I wanted to help her promote it, so she wrote a (super!!!!) helpful guest post for the blog. We met a few years ago after speaking on a panel together, and I was actually already subscribed to her blog too. This guest is particularly apropos considering we connected through old-fashioned, but deliberate, networking. Molly’s book is ALL about how to successfully network, which although it’s a trendy buzzword, it can prove to be challenging or awkward in practice. But it doesn’t have to be! (She also interviewed me in a section of the book!)
How to Connect with Someone Like Carly
Guest post by Molly Beck
When you tell people that you are trying to land an internship, find your first job, or are looking for a mentor, the first piece of advice you are always given is: “network!”
“Have you started networking?” “You need to be networking more!” “Did you go to the networking event?” This constant rang of advice that you “need to network” can feel really overwhelming.
A few years ago all this noise got to me, and I started thinking of the definition of “networking” differently. I started to think of “networking” as just a shortened version of the phrase “the people you know.” Thinking of networking as making friends and talking to interesting people, rather than a career obligation lumped in with formatting your resume, changed networking from a chore to something to look forward to for me.
Instead of thinking… I should be networking more, which, what does that even really mean? I started thinking: I can build my network by meeting cool, interesting people. Interesting people tend to do interesting things… so this will be a great way for me to know more cool people, and probably will let me in on some interesting professional opportunities, too.
What I also learned is that it is easier for me to target one specific person at a time rather than traditional networking which feels like you are supposed to be handing out business cards to every random person on the street – most of whom you don’t want to meet anyway.
Here are four mini-advice tips to keep in mind when expanding your network – told through how I added Carly to mine!
Advice #1: When You Meet Someone at an Event, Always Follow Up
Three years ago, Carly and I were on the same panel together at a conference, talking about blogging and the digital world. We didn’t know each other before then, but I was really impressed by Carly’s advice on building a brand on the panel (Carly’s an amazing public speaker if you’re lucky enough to see her in action). After the panel, ended, she and I stayed behind and chatted for almost a half hour.
It would have been easy to have left the venue and thought “wow, Carly’s great, I should read her blog” and left it at that. But the real payoff from meeting someone doesn’t happen at the event – it happens in the follow-up. You want to turn good conversations into good connections, and to do that you need to send emails or a social media message to each other to firm up the relationship and so that you both have a digital reminder of your connection.
Advice #2: Then, Connect As People… Not Just As Business Contacts
Carly and I did just that: the day after the conference, we sent each other emails back and forth. It would have been so easy to go into work mode and say “hey, you know this person, can you introduce me?” and “do you have any intel about how to work with this client?”, but instead, we followed up on one of the things we had chatted about in person: our favorite mom blogs! (We are both total devotees!). After sharing our favorite blogs full of cute kids, we made plans to meet for dinner (at Cafeteria in Chelsea…love that place).
No one wants to feel like they are just another number in your phone. If you meet someone and follow up with them via email, be a real human, not just a robot someone looking to mine them for connections or a job offer and then move on.
Advice #3: Next, Find Reasons to Stay In Touch
We went to dinner almost three years ago, but we still stay in touch. About every six months or so we email each other for both work and fun reasons. She put me in touch with Maxie for a speaking opportunity I was interested in, we shared our favorite documentary and photographer recs, exchange happy bday greetings, and emailed each other when we saw the other person killing it (like I did when Carly wrote this post. One of the most honest, best posts I’ve seen in the blogosphere).
The “keeping-in-touch” email is easy to do – it’s as simple as emailing the other person congratulations whenever you see something they did that’s awesome or when you think of them randomly, opening your phone and shooting a message to them. Not every message to a contact needs to be a “big deal.” Going back to the tip above, just be a human and connect with them as a real person. A really easy way to keep in touch with someone is if you read an article that you know they would like, sending them a link with a short note is a great, easy way to stay on their radar.
Advice #4: Networking Is a Long Game
About two years after I met Carly, I finally had a real “business” way we could work together! I asked Carly if she would share some of her inbox secrets for my new book about networking, Reach Out. Carly is the most on top of her inbox person I know: not only does she respond to everyone who emails her (which is a ton of email) but she’s always SO fast about responding to emails. As I was confirming her quotes for the book, she would routinely email me back within the hour. She’s on top of her emails, and the perfect contributor for the section of the book entitled “How Busy People Manage Their Inbox.”
Networking is a long game: you never know how you might end up working with someone. When Carly and I first got to know each in 2014, I had no idea if we would ever work together in a professional capacity: she was just someone I met at an event, clicked with, followed up with over email, and treated her like a real person instead of just a business connection. By just focusing on adding someone smart and interesting people to my life, Carly became a valued part of my network – without having to run around handing out my business card!