From Guest Blogger Jessica Newcomb
When you were a child, what did you say when you met someone you liked? My 6-year-old self probably said something like, “Hi, I’m Jessica. Want to be my friend?” Asking this question was a risk. Certainly, the other kid could walk away or stick her tongue out at me, but more often than not, we went off together to swing or play on the monkey bars.
As an adult, I sometimes get caught up in worrying about a potential negative reaction that I avoid reaching out in the first place. I also forget that at the core of my request, I was offering something because the other person also benefitted by having a friend and playmate.
The same principle holds true for forming professional relationships. Generosity—offering something to the other person—is one of the best ways to gain someone’s attention.
What are you currently saying or writing when you reach out to a contact? As a job seeker, do you lead with your need? Do you lead with asking for a job or internship? Read the example below and think about what the writer is asking.
Hello Mr. Jones,
I am a first year MBA at ABC University and wanted to introduce myself and ask for assistance in the form of an introduction. I would like to meet John Smith who works for XYZ Corporation for career networking and was hopeful you would make the introduction for me.
Thanks for your time and assistance, and I look forward to the upcoming conversation.
The writer is asking someone he has never met or spoken with previously to provide access to his network and make a recommendation. Why would this contact be compelled to meet this request? In a short statement—he wouldn’t be.
Instead, the writer should lead with the attitude, “How can I help you?” There are lots of ways to give as you build and strengthen your network: offer compliments or acknowledge success and accomplishments, connect people with a corresponding need/ability, send relevant articles, or give your time by volunteering.
Even if the contact does not offer you a job, you as the job seeker still benefit by gaining a professional relationship that you can expand, practicing relationship building and communication skills that will be useful over your lifetime, and growing personally and professional by engaging with others in your functional area or industry.
Jessica Newcomb is the Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services at Texas A&M University. Please follow her on Twitter @JessicaNewcomb.