There’s no denying the importance of networking for career development: studies have found that about 80% of jobs are filled through networking. When most job seekers learn this statistic, they jump onto professional networking sites like LinkedIn to connect with as many people as possible, then scratch their heads when the offers don’t come pouring in.
Why doesn’t that approach work? As Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues have noted, “transactional networking” — i.e., “networking with the goal of advancement” — often makes participants feel so bad about themselves, they feel “dirty.” That isn’t to say that networking can’t lead to fruitful transactions like new business deals, job offers, or connections to other great people. It can. But those are the side effects of relationship building.
As we share in our #SocialImpactCareerGuide, the truth is that networking is something you should start doing long before you need a favor. A strong network is not defined by the quantity of connections, but rather by the quality of those connections.
So, how do you go about deepening your networking connections, particularly in this increasingly virtual world? In our last networking article, we shared how to leverage LinkedIn to find new connections along with a template to ask a mutual contact for an introduction. In this article, we’ll share a template to help you take that new virtual connection to the next level by setting up time to connect directly.
Remember: whether you’re looking for a potential mentor, new job, or inroad to a new company, do not ask in this first exchange. At this point, the goal is to learn more about each other and build trust. To help them understand the context of who you are and why you’re reaching out, mention the person that introduced you or how you know each other.
Here’s an example of what that could look like:
If the new connection says yes, be sure to take the initiative to drive the process forward by sending a calendar invitation with all of the details and relevant links needed to join the meeting. Afterward, be sure to send a thank you note.
Hopefully over the course of the call, you’ll learn more about the new connection that will help you deepen the relationship over time. For example, if you learn that your new connection has a particular interest in the way CSR is evolving in response to COVID, next time you see an article on that topic, send it over to them with a short note tying it back to what you talked about.
Looking for more tips? Check out our networking and mentorship guides.
The bottom line is that effective virtual networking goes beyond simply clicking “connect” on LinkedIn. It’s about nurturing a mutually beneficial relationship over time. Keep the tips and template above in mind as you expand and deepen your professional network, and for more customized support building the network you need to accelerate your impact, apply to the MovingWorlds Institute.