With the trend of networking events, workshops and connection seminars being huge these days, it is imperative that you learn how to maximize your connections. The ones that have been in your network for a while as well as new ones.
MtE Media has a few tips to keep you connected and respected. As always this is not an exhaustive list and is from OUR perspective. However, the following should absolutely help you to work your network!
Establish the Level of Connection
It's easy to "say" someone is your connect. However, these days it's common that everyone is bro, sis, the homie, my peoples, my mans and 'nem, et. al. But we all know that's not true. Now I use the term sis (bro as well) in a few ways. I have my #framily that are my sisters and brothers. But let's say I meet a woman in a work, industry or social situation and we hit it off... I would use the term 'sis' as a sign of respect for another woman of color. If the woman is other than a black woman, I usually won't use the phrase in that syntax. BUT I know that this new person is not really my sister. So when I reach out to connect, I gauge the level of connection as a rule of how to engage in communication. If we met, discussed business, then sniggled, giggled and raised a glass, or if we broke bread, then my salutation will be much more relaxed, but still respectful. If it was a connection energy wise, but more of a formal exchange, I will take zero social liberties and address the person formally until otherwise requested. You may have both side-eyed the dude that didn't know the meaning of personal space, and smirked about it silently together...but you still don't know him or her personally or informally, so you shouldn't reach out like you do.
Make Your Connection Immediately
When you establish a connection, or meet someone who you may want to work with, upon exchanging information you should send a follow-up note no later than end of business the next day; unless they have stated they are traveling or will be out of reach for a while. Also, unless it's in context or requested, don't send your resume first thing. And for God sakes, don't push out some long, drawn out missive in which you obnoxiously name drop either. Greet the person, reintroduce yourself, remind them where you met, how and/or through whom. It's also good to be proactive and request to speak via phone, to meet for coffee, drinks or something light and appropriate. This shows you are on top of things, as you've made the connect in a timely fashion, but it negates a sense of desperation and infatuation (or thirst) on your part.
If you have now made a connection with the person and they then ask you to send something or to circle back in a certain time frame...do it! Be timely, if not early (within reason). Also, if there is a deliverable they are expecting to accompany your follow up note or call, have it ready to send or share. Be sure that it is edited, proof read for mistakes and if it's a word document or something in a program like PowerPoint or Excel, send it in PDF form so that it doesn't shift or skew in transit and ensure all necessary information is enclosed. Again, this displays your professionalism.
Cultivate and Nurture Your Relationships
We've spoken about new contacts, but what about those that you have already? Have you kept in touch? Not just via eblast and generic likes on a post here and there, either. Have you checked in with at least a text, a private message, DM or something? Maybe sent a card for a birthday or holiday? Acknowledged a life event of theirs such as a new birth, a recent engagement or an unfortunate personal loss? When is the last time you reached out without a request or motive, but simply to stay connected with a hello and an "all the best?" More than likely if this connect is important to you and your social standing or progress, they are being pursued by others. So be sure to not be another outstretched hand that is looking for a hookup or handout. But be a willing vessel to assist them with something or to at least be an open palm willing to give and not just receive. Also, if they are close to you, don't forget your business acumen. You may want or need their help, but when you approach them have a business plan or a proposal. Know what you are asking for and be able to justify it with stats and dialogue. If the situation is a financial request with no guarantee for R.O.I. (return on investment), then be impassioned when you pitch. Be so infectious that it becomes about them bolstering your vision, more so than making a profit or breaking even. But have all of your ducks in a row before you approach people, so that way even if they can't help, they are enticed to assist in finding someone who can. This also eliminates your known connections from feeling as if you are trying to take advantage of or abuse the relationship.
No one likes a phony. If the individual you are approaching is someone you are seeking out, they likely have had and maybe even at some point delivered their share of bs...thus they can sniff it out easy. Along with those that are simply opportunist with nothing to offer. So when you interact with people, don't pretend to like chocolate with almonds or under water basket weaving simply because they do. Be you; like what YOU like. But show a genuine, albeit deliberate interest in their likes and hobbies as well. If you are unsure of what something is or what it's about, that's okay. Inquire, which likely makes them excited to show you, explain it to you or extend an invitation to try the experience with them. This shows you are honest, genuine and may even garner you more up close and intimate access than you would've had prior to.
The main point is to be aware, be professional, be yourself and be consistent. These things will surely help you to maximize your network. As we all know, your network usually determines your net worth!
Tell us how you maximize your network or give some life-hacks that we may have missed. Or, tell us about something that you did or that happened to you as an example of how NOT to do things.