Too many times I see people being too forward online and not forward enough offline, so here are three tips to use in both worlds.
1. Always introduce yourself.
For some reason I keep getting requests to connect on LinkedIn (and sometimes on Facebook) from people I’ve never had any interaction with (following me on Twitter doesn’t count). The web gives you hundreds of ways to connect with others, but you get one chance to make a first impression. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t approach someone at a networking event and just hand over your business card or ask them to connect with you on a website without saying more than your name and job title, right? In my opinion, LinkedIn works the same way.
Always err on the side of being polite and just send a friendly note saying why you want to connect. Found a blog and want to meet the creator? Thank them for their great content, and then ask to connect. Want a job at your dream company? Reach out to a person who works there and say you’re interested in learning more about their company, and then ask to connect. Realize someone in your field went to your college? Send a friendly note and see if you can chat sometime about college memories and your professional experience, then ask to connect. A few extra minutes here and there will make you stand out from the pack.
2. Never ask someone for a job or job reference whom you haven’t met.
I was on the receiving end of one of these communications last year (through email). A girl I knew referred a job seeking girl to me just based on the fact we both like to write. The first girl did the right thing- tried to help out her friend. The second girl messed up. Not only did she not even say anything substantial about her background so I could get any sense of her qualifications, she then flat out asked for any connections I might have in the writing field. REALLY?! I want to be clear, I love connecting people. But, I have a rule to only connect people who have professional backgrounds I can actually speak to.
Here’s the thing about networking, it’s an ongoing process that is all about connecting with people. Many wait until they’re really after something tangible- a new job, a new sales lead, a new client- to start the process. When you meet someone new you’d like to get to know better be friendly and ask questions that will help lead you to your goal Do not flat out ask for a job or reference. You will look needy, unprofessional, and most likely ruin the chance at some great relationships that may help you down the line. Instead, try to foster the start of a relationship so you gain a true contact you can ask for help when the timing is right.
3. Be yourself!
For anyone who’s found bios about me online, found my Twitter stream, or has had a laugh with me in person, you will come across the same person. Sure, like anyone, I have different sides to my personality, but I always remain true to who I am. I talk about the same sorts of topics on and offline. I approach people in the same way. And my writing voice is very similar to how I communicate in person.
Meeting people can be scary, but every mom’s advice is to just be yourself and people will like you. (Our moms were right, by the way). In the company lunchroom, at industry events, and when posting content online, be proud of who you are. Find your niche, find your voice, and don’t be afraid to speak up!
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