Recently a student sent me this message:
“I am really interested in joining Company XYZ. I am looking for an “IN” there. I connect with Company XYZ employees via LinkedIn, but when I message them or seek insight, I get no response. I always let these people know why I would like to connect. Yet, no one is able or willing to help me. Any advice”
I talked with this student. He believes in every possible way that this business is the best place for his next career step and he believes in the power of networking.
He assures me that he has been honest, transparent and polite with all of his connection requests. Nearly all of the requests for connection have been completed.
However, he is missing out on an important point: He has not worked on building a relationship with these new connections before asking for anything.
Here are a few keys to remember regarding building relationships that hopefully become mutually beneficial.
1) Have an IRL (in real life) conversation with them.
Invite your new relevant LinkedIn contact out to coffee, lunch or an after 5 drink.
Or, ask if you can visit them at their office. Sometimes you can position an onsite visit as a tour or maybe just to learn more about their job, department or business.
Regardless of where, the first meeting has to be all about them. Nothing, I repeat, nothing about you until asked, and even then you have to keep it simple. And, don’t ask about a job opening or request to meet someone else, yet.
2) Work on learning more about your contact.
Learning about them as an individual is the most important thing you can do.
Interesting personal facts like:
Do they have kids or Grandkids?
Are they married and if so, how long?
What does their spouse do?
What is their favorite past time? sports, fishing, photography, painting, etc, etc
Why did they get into the business they are in? How do they like what they do? Why?
Did they move from another country, state or region?
There are hundreds of different questions that can be used to start working on building a relationship. The key is to ask honest transparent questions and show them that you are both interested and listening. Be genuine with the questions you ask. Being fake shows thru like lightening in the dark, and it ruins any chance of a relationship just as quickly.
Also, do some research about your contact before meeting and talking. Fodder is good stuff when getting together to talk.
3) Find out something that is real important to them.
This is not hard to do. It will be the one thing that makes them the most animated or excited during the very causal conversation they are having with you.
You may find that during your casual conversation that there are areas of interest or experience that are relevant to you as well.
4) As you learn about your contact, and you start to develop the simplest of relationships, ask them if there is anything you can do for them.
If they offer up a need that is personal, this is the best way to help them and to build a relationship. If they ask for no help, ask if there is anyone they know who could benefit from your talents, skills, resources or friendship.
Regardless of the help they ask for, if you can help them directly or indirectly by introducing them to someone else, plan to do it as quickly and completely as you can. And do It!
Now, here is when more often than not, you can benefit from the relationship that is developing.
Generally (not always, but mostly), they will in turn ask something like, “how can I help you?”
Be honest with your new friend and say, “I want to know more about the department or business.” Tell them that you think this is a place where you could see yourself working one day. Ask them who else you should meet.
You are far likely to get a good name and contact information from your new friend after you begin building a relationship with them.
A LinkedIn connection by itself does not make a relationship.
You need to develop a relationship before you have the right to ask for anything
Develop a relationship by listening and when possible, help them directly or indirectly.
Then and only then can you ask for anything.