Networking is all about building relationships. If you’ve had an informational interview with someone or a series of meaningful email exchanges, and you’d like to sustain the relationship, it’s helpful to have some additional steps in mind — beyond writing a thank-you note afterwords.
Here are some strategies for drawing on networking contacts for additional advice and mentoring. Not all of them are relevant to all networking situations. Some are fairly labor intensive and not to be proposed lightly. However, if you are genuinely interested in your contact’s profession, and feel a rapport with them, something on this list will help you build on that connection.
- When you thank some one for an informational interview, include a link or article related to something that came up in your conversation.
- If you asked for advice or suggestions of additional people to reach out to, take these next steps and then report back to thank your contact and let them know how it went.
Come back with new questions
- As you learn more on your own about the field they work in, you may find you have additional questions about professional practices, employers, expectations, and the like. Ask them.
- As you learn more about yourself and build additional skills, you may find you have additional questions about your next steps. Ask them.
- If you get a related part-time job or internship, look for work-related situations that you can ask for advice about, e.g., “I’m having trouble getting timely feedback from my supervisor on this project — do you have any suggestions?” or “the head of my department seems really angry all the time and recently blew up at someone in a staff meeting — how do you suggest handling a situation like that?”
Make a request
- Ask for other kinds of suggestions: professional organizations to join, books to read, twitter accounts to follow, companies to look into. Again — make use of those suggestions and let the person who made them know what you found particularly interesting or helpful.
- Ask if you can have a tour of where your contact works (assuming that they aren’t self-employed or working remotely or working for a tiny organization where your presence would be intrusive).
- Ask if you can shadow them for a day. Note that not all jobs lend themselves to “shadowing” — if someone’s work mostly consists of sending email or dealing with confidential client matters, this might not be a productive request
Get help with your job/internship search
- Format your resume for an internship or entry-level job in that person’s field and ask them to review it and make suggestions.
- Ask them to look over your writing samples or portfolio or project (if you’re interested in careers that require such things) and make suggestions.
- If you’re applying for jobs or internships, ask if they’d be willing to run a few sample interview questions with you and give you feedback.
Pay it back and forward
- Look for that your relevant knowledge, observations, and perspective might benefit your contact.
- Facilitate new connections. You may realize that your contact’s career path is not a good fit for you, but if they seem interested in mentoring new professionals, connect them with friends who might be interested in their work.
- Let your contact know when their advice or connections have made a difference for you — helped you achieve success or embark on a new path.
- Find opportunities to help others in ways that you’ve been helped.