Networking events are a great way to meet industry players and suss out career opportunities, but following up is crucial. These tips will let you leverage those contacts for success.
You just walked out of a campus networking event or an industry meet-and-greet and you’ve got a stack of business cards and a bunch of new names added to your contacts. Now what? How can you leverage those introductions you just made as effectively as possible to build the social capital that you can draw on when you need it?
We talked extensively with our recruiters and here’s what they had to say:
Whittle your list: Review your new contacts while they’re still fresh in your mind and jot some notes about what you discussed with whom, mutual friends or interests you may have, and any other information you can use to forge a connection. Put a star next to the names of those with whom you had more meaningful conversations and those you think could be a good resource. No matter how many people you met and how much information-overload you’re experiencing after the event, now you have identified the best people for follow up.
Write targeted follow-ups: Within the next 24 hours, reach out to your starred contacts—you should act fast while memories are fresh. Don’t blast an email to every person you met; rather, send an individual message to only those people with whom you had a meaningful encounter and who are likely to respond.
Pay attention to the content: Write emails that are brief, personal, enthusiastic and touch on some connection you made. Be sure to mention the event where you met and the date it took place and always thank the person for the time and insight they shared. You might include a link to an article on a topic you discussed or a contact they might find valuable. Ask if you might schedule a follow-up phone call, but don’t press the point or suggest times and dates. Finally, proofread carefully. Nothing spoils a first impression like a typo or grammatical error.
Do your homework: If someone replies and offers to speak with you, make sure you prepare. Review the company website and the person’s LinkedIn profile and come up with a short list of questions to ask. These should be specific, not questions that can be answered by a quick Google or Glassdoor search. Not: “What do you enjoy most about working at Morgan Stanley?” or “What does a securities lender do?” but “As I may have mentioned, I’m pursuing a degree in computer science but am excited by opportunities in business operations, like the ones you mentioned in our chat the other night. What would be a good next step for me professionally?”
Connect on LinkedIn: Once you’ve had your follow-up meeting or phone call, ask your contact to connect on LinkedIn (assuming you haven’t already and assuming your discussion went well). People who take part in networking events often get lots of LinkedIn requests; sending one after you’ve established a relationship will increase the odds you’ll get a positive response.
Don’t be too pushy: Emailing once is fine. Sending multiple emails, plus phoning, plus making LinkedIn requests is excessive. That said, it’s a good bet that your contact was inundated with emails immediately following the event you both attended. If you don’t hear back, a second email a couple of weeks after your first, is fine. If you still hear radio silence, let it go.
Stay in touch: If you score an informational phone chat or coffee date, be sure to follow up with another (carefully proofread) thank-you note. And keep the conversation going. Fire off a congratulatory note when you get a LinkedIn alert that your contact has been promoted or has a new job. Send links to articles with news or events they’d find useful or interesting. And let him or her know, briefly, of your own noteworthy achievements. By staying in regular touch, you can build your relationship and position yourself for career opportunities down the road.