The answer will vary based on your existing job search plan. My suggestion is it’s too much when you can’t follow-up and reach out to your new connections. You are not only defeating the purpose, but you’re sending the wrong message about your brand. You must reach out to your new connections within 24 hours, and if at all possible within the same day. Why? The fortune is in the follow-up.
Reaching out to your connections within 24 hours sounds easy, but when you’re deeply entrenched executing your job search plan, this can get challenging. For example, this week – over just two days – I attended 3 networking events. To top it off, right in the middle of these events I had an interview! But because I’m a firm believer in following through with my commitments, I attended all 3 events anyway. Talk about a little bit of stress. In the end, I’m glad I followed through because they were all great events and I made some great contacts.
One important point here is that the fortune is in the follow-up. So Tuesday night I attended PDMA SoCal which is the Orange County Chapter of the national Product Development and Management Association. This is a great association for product management professionals (Marketing and R&D;, product development and management). The guest speaker was Tony Lemus from VCI, Value Creation Institute, talking about Predictive Analytics – which was really great. For those Product Management professionals in LA, there is also a PDMA Los Angeles Chapter. Reach out to Eric Rose, who is the current chapter President, if you’re interested in more information or getting involved. In the end, I reached out to my contacts within an hour of getting home. Even though I was tired and it was after 10:00 pm. I understand the importance of following up because of mistakes I made in the past. if you wait too long, you will feel foolish and wonder if they will even remember you.
I was not quite as diligent on my new contacts from my Wednesday morning ExecuNet meeting in Irvine, since I needed some final preparation for my interview. This was my first ExecuNet meeting, which was led by Mark James, CPC, and it was just great. I made some great contacts, there is a learning aspect and the structured networking makes it easy to make connections. Mark James, CPC is an outstanding host, and is the Founder and President of Hire Consulting LLC, an executive recruiting and career coaching firm. He shares lots of great insights and genuinely wants to help executives in transition.
Likewise, my contacts from tonight’s event, Tech Biz Connection – Where Technology and Business Intersect, will not receive my emails until tomorrow since I’m writing my blog at 11:30 pm. This was another terrific event. The key point is that I will reach out to my new connections by tomorrow morning because the fortune is in the follow-up.
Some tips for networking that I learned over time:
- During the event, write the event name and date on the business card, and any follow-up information. For example, “Send contact info for Joe Smith at XYZ Corp.” This will remind you to do a warm introduction with one of your contacts. It was also suggested to me to start writing the person’s birthday with an offer to take them to lunch. At a minimum this will create two networking dates, when you each take the other one to lunch. I like the idea but have not implemented this one yet.
- Create a one-page networking bio and be sure to include your target companies. I also include two sentences at the very bottom of mine: Help you… I can help you with job search strategies, researching target companies, social media, and contacts. Help me… I would appreciate warm introductions to contacts at my target companies or suggestions for additional consumer goods companies in LA or Orange County. (I’ve received some good feedback on this.)
- Put the information in your contact database as quickly as possible and file the cards in those 8.5 X 11 plastic business card protectors and organize by date. For my contact database, I just use Outlook but I code all my new entries with the category, “Executive Networking.” In the notes section I add the event name and date we met, and any additional particulars. When I get warm introductions, I do the same thing and add how I was introduced in the notes section.
- Make every effort to keep in touch with your new connections. Reach out every month or so and check in with them. Ask how their search is going and how you can help. (This is the part I still need to get better at executing.)
- When someone offers to help you, whether it’s a contact, advice or some other assistance, make sure you follow-up and ask for the information. This is your responsibility, not theirs. Although don’t be surprised how many will actually follow-up with you.
- In turn, you do the same. When you tell someone you can help them, then follow-up on your offer!
- Follow-up within 24 hours! Ask for a coffee date to solidify the connection, or just provide the warm introductions that were promised.
So get out and network, even if it’s a little bit uncomfortable. You will improve and it will get easier. Go out and be your (professional) self, with a genuine heart and a desire to help others. This is the “pay it forward” concept that you’ve read so much about. Take the focus off yourself and help others. It will come back to you in the long run.
I have suggestions on many networking events in the Orange County area (with a few in LA and San Diego County too), so if you’re just getting started and you are in Southern California, send me a request for ideas and your calendar will be filled in no time.
Just remember, don’t over book yourself and leave time for follow-up!
Julie Abraham – Jules’ Gems… marketing tips from a proven leader passionate about helping others.
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