By Katherine Larkin-Wong • March 23, 2010•Writers in Residence
Before getting into this month’s column on networking follow up, I wanted to post a link to this article which I think documents some interesting research about how important networking is for women. The research suggests that the glass ceiling is at least partially attributable to the fact that men have stronger networks than women. The glass ceiling is perpetuated through those networks because men hear about and get access to positions that women do not.
This month’s post is all about follow through. You went to the conference, the networking event sponsored by your firm or school, or took the advice from last month’s post and tried out the informational interview … what do you do now? Follow up is one of the keys to making a good impression on a new connection or keeping up with an old one. It is also one of the skills that, at least according to the literature, separate the good networkers from the bad. I sought out advice from career professionals to give you a few easy strategies for follow up and would like to thank Ari Kaplan, principal at Ari Kaplan Advisors and the author of The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development and Lindsey Pollak, Career and Workplace Consultant and author of Getting from College to Career for their helpful suggestions.
Strategy One: Figure Out Follow Up at the First Meeting
Lindsey Pollak says that, even as someone who is a professional networker, she still found follow up a challenge with the biggest question always being: What’s the best method for follow up? When you’re confronted with a set of business cards you can sometimes feel uncertain about the best method for reaching out to that person. Is an e-mail best or too impersonal? Is a phone call presumptuous? Lindsey has learned to take the guess work out of follow up by asking the person she meets when she gets their business card. She says, “Just ask. Simply say, I really enjoyed meeting you and would like to keep in touch. What’s the best way to follow up with you?” The range of answers vary: LinkedIn and Facebook may be popular among a certain group of people while others may prefer e-mails or phone calls. By asking, you’ve taken the guesswork out of how to follow up.
Strategy Two: Follow Up with Something Useful
Once you figure out how to follow up, the next question is what to follow up with? The best tip is to try to follow up with something useful. Following up with something useful shows that you expect the relationship to be mutually beneficial. If you meet someone at a conference based on a mutually shared interest, send them an article that addresses an issue you discussed. If you believe that person could benefit from someone else you know, follow up by connecting those individuals.
This strategy applies over the long term as well. Stay connected by sending an article or a case that you come across a few months later if you think it might be helpful to a contact’s practice or business. (For example, I recently sent Judge Scheindlein’s latest e-discovery case to a friend who I used to work with on e-discovery issues.) At an event where you may be meeting a wide variety of people and taking a number of business cards, a good strategy is to write an issue or topic for follow up on the back of the business card. When you sit down to write your follow up note, you can include the detail about your conversation. The detail serves two purposes. First, it helps you remember the person you were talking to and secondly it helps remind the person you are writing to of who you were. This is a strategy that a career advisor gave me when I was going through callback interviews as well. If you write out whom you are meeting with on your legal pad beforehand and then jot down notes about each conversation as you are moving between them or immediately afterwards, your thank you notes will be more meaningful.
Strategy Three: Aim to Develop Friendships; Not Just Networks
Ari Kaplan suggests an easy method for follow up: keeping track of an individual and sending congratulations. He suggests setting Google Alerts for your contacts or using social networking tools to learn more about individuals and to connect with them on a level that is not limited to your shared work interests. For Ari, follow up is all about creating a more meaningful relationship and he suggests that social networking tools enable us to do so because they allow individuals to interact on a number of levels at a depth that cannot be accomplished in a “grip-and-grin session.” Interaction through social networking is a great way to build from a networking relationship to a friendship. According to Ari’s research, law students are at an advantage here because more of them are familiar with social networking tools like LinkedIn or Facebook but most fail to use them to their full capacity. A word of caution here, before sharing your Facebook or other social networking information, make sure that it is in a form that you are comfortable sharing in a professional setting!
Next month I’m going to start looking at social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. What are pluses and minuses of utilizing these tools to build business and network and what are some of the best strategies for online networking should you choose to use them?