Stephanie Rushford is an associate editor for EarlyRisersweekly.com, a website that follows Generation Y’s involvement in politics and activism. Hannah Brencher is a liaison at the United Nations for a non-governmental organization, freelancewriter, and a researcher for She’stheFirst.
Lindsey Pollak was gracious enough to offer some tips and tricks to us at our She’stheFirstLeadershipSummitthis past month. For all those who struggle with networking events or professional gatherings, read on to learn how to take your networking skills out of the box and into a position that will prepare you to “make the ask” for just about anything.
Networking is normal: The initial idea of walking up to a stranger to start a conversation may be a daunting task for anyone—especially when you want to impress someone—-however, networking is completely normal. That magazine editor in chief or financier was once in your shoes. It is important to be yourself; your colleagues will appreciate your honest and unique approach.
You’re not the first: Many times young professionals will build up the networking event or meeting in their mind; it is important to understand that supervisors and managers have networked with young professionals before. They have heard the same questions before and can offer sage advice to help guide your career. You are not reinventing the wheel by asking a manager what skills you need to promote your organization successfully—it has been asked before—-you are showing them that you have what it takes to succeed.
A real relationship: Once you make a connection with someone be sure not to abuse the relationship by being a ‘taker.’ The relationship must be mutually beneficial for both parties to succeed. If you ask an editor to review your reel, how about offering your time to help log tapes for them? Before you ask for a favor, ask yourself: what can I give in return?
No fear: Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone. Many businesses and entrepreneurs are eager to assist college students and recent grads; people are often willing to help you if you just ask them. Take the risk and talk to that highly successful executive, an opportunity missed is an opportunity lost.
Move on: Inevitably, you may be rejected in your efforts to connect with someone; they will not respond to your email or phone calls. It is paramount to move on and not obsess about this one negative experience. There will be more opportunities to showcase your talents and winning personality, and next time you just might get a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no.’
Now that you have the skills for networking it is time to “make the ask.” Whether it’s asking the local bakery to donate cupcakes for an upcoming event or asking a CEO to help cover start-up costs for an organization, there’s a definite science involved. Turns out, it’s not as simple as the old saying, “ask and you shall receive.”
Do your homework: No matter what the need is, big or small, go into the “ask” having done your research. The Internet eliminates any excuses behind walking into a situation without knowing the history of a company or the demographic it targets. Be well prepared and knowledgeable about the organization or individual you are approaching.
Never underestimate a subject line: Let’s face it, most of us have a full inbox by lunchtime. It’s important to include a stand-out subject line in your emails, like “Girls’ Charity Seeking Your Support” that will prevent the reader from pressing “delete.” Though the exterior matters, the interior of your email counts most. Keep your message short, polite and to the point. No need to type 500 words for what can be said in only 150.
Everything happens in the follow-up: Be a person of your word and check back with anyone you have reached out to. Following up will show an individual that you are still dedicated and interested in engaging with them. Are you one to forget the follow-up? Mark it in your calendar and don’t shrug it off when the time comes. After all, you were the one to reach out so it’s important that you see the communication through to the end.
Thank You. It’s still the golden word: The message never tires, no matter what age we reach: say thank you! Despite being an in age where email is the primary form of communication, nothing quite compares to a handwritten note. Even after thanking a person look for ways in the future to acknowledge and involve them in future happenings.