How many of you think about career goals as part of your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you haven’t in the past because you didn’t know what to include or maybe you made your goals too overwhelming and not specific enough like, “I want to find my dream job this year.”
Well, it’s a fresh year and we’re going to start with a fresh goal of resolving to create one career habit that’s totally manageable and can be a total game-changer for your career: forming long-lasting career relationships.
I’m going to lay out my best tips for building and maintaining relationships with three different types of people: the complete stranger, the event introduction, and the work colleagues. Another way of thinking about this is cold, warm, and hot connections. And before we dive in, make sure you download these free email templates which lay out exactly what to say in networking messages!
image by belathée photography
The Complete Stranger
This is also known as a “cold” connection because you don’t already know this person or have any connection to them via friends, work, etc. I find a lot of cold connections that I want to build a relationship with on LinkedIn or Instagram. This might be someone running a company, or someone who’s product, job, or company is of interest to me. For example, when I was a recruiter, I loved to find people who worked in talent development at other tech companies. Another example is a person reaching out to someone who works at their favorite e-commerce company even though they don’t work in e-commerce.
First, send a message via Instagram or LinkedIn and let them know why you want to connect and if they can share their email address. Next, send them an email to connect either in-person or via phone. Make sure to mention why you want to connect. Are you interested in learning about their career path, want to connect to chat about industry stuff since you’re in similar roles, or want to learn more about the company they work at? Whatever your learning goal is for the conversation, let them know. They are more likely to meet with you if they know why you want to connect. Make sure you’re the one handling all the scheduling of the meeting and even offering to go their way to meet. Before your meeting, research the person’s background and their company so you’re not wasting time asking them questions you can find on the internet already.
At the end of the meeting, thank them and ask if it would be ok if you kept in touch with them. Now, here’s the most important part of all of this, you have to actually keep in touch. Send an email to officially thank them for their time and then set a calendar reminder to send a “touching base” email every 3-4 months. Your touch base is a great time to share what’s new with you, ask them about their own goals, share any news that might be of interest to them etc. Be consistent about this and that cold connection will turn into a warm connection in no time.
image by molly culver
The Event Introduction
Unlike the complete stranger, you already have a foundation with the person you recently met at a conference, networking event, etc. Let’s assume at the event you exchanged names and contact information. Within 48 hours after the event, send an email letting them know how great it was to meet them at XYZ event, something you had in common, and ask them to connect one-on-one via in-person or phone. Even if scheduling gets hard or they need to re-schedule multiple times, stick with it! After your meeting, send an email if there was anything you chatted about that requires you sending follow-up information. Add them as a connection on your preferred networking channel and then set your calendar alarm to follow-up every few months. You can also be sure to interact with them on social channels as easy ways to stay top of mind throughout the year. If you’re looking to collaborate, work with the person or company, etc. wait to ask for any of that till you’ve built a relationship for a few months first.
image by madewell
The Work Colleagues
Yes, you can even network with people at your own company. Cross-department networking is really fantastic because it not only makes you have more friends at work, but it’s an easy way to explore other career opportunities. If you work in marketing, find someone around your same level in the finance department to have coffee or lunch with. Ask them about their career path, what they do within the finance department, etc. When I worked in recruiting, I had a monthly coffee with a designer for the sales team. Our jobs were really different but we had a common bond over the fact that our clients were all internal. She worked with our in-house sales team and I worked with hiring managers. We’d trade stories on how to communicate with business folks vs. the creatives and I even learned how the sales team used her designed decks to sell to new clients—a skill that I now use at Career Contessa!
So there you have it. A career resolution you can totally keep because you’ll really enjoy building and maintaining relationships. Creating the “relationship-building” habit doesn’t have to be draining or time-consuming either. All the steps I laid out will take you no more than 30 or so minutes. I also love to hear from you! What relationship-building tips have you tried and loved? Tell me in the comments below!