Aaron Davis, Recless Tech
Your professional network holds the key to solve a work problem, sign a customer, or get that new job. A referral from a known person comes with more trust. It is engaged more quickly and creates a bias for the connection to be a success.
I can no longer count how many times I’ve coached a technical professional through how to network with their contacts. Unfortunately, it’s often when someone is referred to me in an urgent job hunt situation - a contract ending, an unexpected termination, or work suddenly becomes unbearable. I always wish we had talked months prior.
The best time to network is before it's needed!
Make a List
People get lost, and it’s hard to keep up with everyone that’s valuable to you. If your LinkedIn is too vast and messy (like mine), document who you want to keep up. Do they have a good reputation? Do you trust them? Do they respect you? Add them to your list. Salespeople and recruiters use CRM systems but staying in touch is valuable to all of us. There’s nothing wrong with having a list of valued connections and dating your last interaction with them so you don’t lose touch.
Find Ways to Give
The hardest part of any give-and-take relationship is finding ways to give. If you want your network to be ready to help when you need them, invest early. The people you need to stay connected with are not always the ones right in front of you. Old colleagues may not come to you first to solve a problem. You have to go out of your way to stay in touch.
Everyone knows the value of connecting with influencers and decision makers. But people you can help are even more important. They will remember you, and many of them will be in positions to help you in the future. Giving generously is the master key to networking.
Connect through Curiosity
People won’t always remember the details of your last conversation with them. They will remember how they felt! Being heard is an important part of feeling good in any relationship but can be with a more introverted personality. Stay curious. Asking big questions like “How’s work?” or “How’s your family?” might be enough to get conversations going with some. Others are more to the point. You may have to probe to stay connected. It’s your network, so do the work of learning what’s important to them, and how you can help.
Ask Directly for Help
When the time comes, and it always does, be prepared to ask for help. People like to help their friends and colleagues. It’s satisfying to know you’re valuable. It scratches a life-purpose itch to improve someone else’s situation. And when you state it in a way that is clearly an ask for assistance, it gives your connection a chance to feel like your hero.
Leave some room to decide exactly how they can help. If you communicate your goal, tell them what you’ve done to get there, and ask them how they can help, most people will want to come to your aid.
“I’d like to communicate directly with PersonA about XYZ. I don’t trust the portal. But I need help getting in touch with them. How could you help me?”
“Would you introduce me to PersonA with an email?”
Adding a bit of problem solving to the ask can offer a feeling of appreciation for the idea on top of the connection.
Aaron Davis is the founder and CEO of Recless Tech, an external referral platform that uses peer-to-peer sourcing to fill tough technology positions. He has previously served as the COO for a software services firm, the Talent Acquisition Director for a large health plan, and an Account Executive for a large tech staffing firm. Aaron is a Senior Professional of Human Resources, a Certified Scrum Master and holds an MBA from Wright State University.