Targeted and direct e-mail communication is an efficient way to connect with people in your network to change your career, industry or job. The first step is to think about your potential audience to create your e-mail list. Typically, an individual has three levels of contacts:
- Circle of Influence: Close contacts including family members and former colleagues with whom you have a good relationship and who could facilitate introductions to important people.
- Friends and Co-Workers: People who are familiar with your work history. It could be a former boss or supervisor, or a friend that you speak with infrequently.
- Acquaintances: People who are not familiar with your professional accomplishments but know who you are. This may be your hairdresser, doctor, etc. These people cannot help you directly but may know other people who can.
Define Your Message To Your Network
The next step is to start thinking about the type of message that you want to send to your network. You can choose to have a formal or informal tone to your messages. You should also think about how you want to contact people if you choose email as your primary mechanism. Should you send a personalized email or bulk? For example, do you send your resume to a big distribution list when you are looking for a job or do you customize a note for each person in your network? We find that personalizing your message leads to greater success.
It is important to not only know what message you want to deliver, but to formulate the actual message itself. If your sole purpose to find contacts in the financial services industry to teach you about the field expectations, then state this in the message. In your career transition networking endeavors, you describe “what you do for a living” quite often. If you are in the midst of a change, this could be stressful. It is important that you go beyond labeling yourself. For instance, if you are in sales, you could say, “I am in sales.” However, this says very little about you, nothing about the kind of things you sell, and nothing about the kinds of customers to whom you sell.
On the other hand, you might say “I am a sales professional with twenty years of experience selling financial software solutions to medium and large companies. My focus has been on creating relationships with senior executives, preferably CFOs. Through understanding their corporate and personal goals, I have been able to ensure a clear fit between the products and their needs.”
It is critical that you understand that everything you say, from the time you first meet someone, is part of your networking, and can either come back as payoff, or come back to bite you. People who introduce themselves with the first type of introduction above are frequently surprised that they do not generate any interest. People who introduce themselves with the second type of introduction, on the other hand, are establishing a connection and making a clear statement about what they have to offer and what they are seeking.
The Network Protocol
To be most effective in building your network, meet people and learn something about them. You want them to learn and remember something about you. When you meet someone new, you have four goals:
- Get their business card.
- Learn something about them.
- Give them your business card.
- Tell them something about you.
If possible, each time you receive someone’s business card, after you have parted from them, make some notes about your conversation with them on the back of their business card. This saves you from having to remember later and gives you the information you may need as some point in the future.