How do you find people to network with?
Conferences and events immediately come to mind for networking, but you don’t need an in-person function to connect with fascinating people. Here is my strategy for finding individuals online to connect with for networking purposes.
Look for organizations in your field of interest that you would like to work for. Then read the biographies of their founders and staff. I love reading biographies because I get a sense for how people got to their role, and what type of person the organization is looking for. But remember, the biography doesn’t tell you everything, which is why a conversation with the person behind the biography is so important.
In addition to looking at organization websites directly, you should look up organizations on LinkedIn to find out who is on their staff or former staff, and which of your connections could potentially put you in touch with the organization. You should also look for people by industry, location, or group on LinkedIn or find potential contacts on Twitter and Facebook groups.
If you are looking to connect with someone to learn more about the the organization they work for, there are two options—career peers or senior folks.
One option is to look for someone at or near your level of employment. For example, if you are currently an Executive Assistant but want to work as an Assistant Director of Operations, try and connect with the Executive Assistant or Assistant Director of Operations at the other organization. These peers will give you a sense of what it’s like to work at that level of the organization.
For more senior level contacts, its best to have a mutual connection make an introduction, or have a more specific reason for taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with them—i.e. you have overlapping interests with them or their organization or you are planning to apply for a job with them in the near future. Senior folks are also very useful for career trajectory advice.
Use your judgement depending on the organization and the person about who would be most beneficial and strategic to network with.
No matter whom you try and connect with, it’s ideal to find someone you can relate to. Maybe they are from your hometown, went to the same college, have the same extracurricular interest, are part of the same membership organization, or worked for your former employer. Finding even one similarity makes connecting much easier, and also less awkward.
As soon as you start looking for potential networking contacts, keep track of everyone you are interested in meeting in a spreadsheet or organizer like Springpad or Evernote.
How do you get in touch if you don’t have a mutual connection?
If their contact information is not on their website, look for them on LinkedIn or Twitter. While Facebook is launching a job search service, Facebook is typically for more personal use and should probably be used as more of a last ditch effort to get in touch. You can also try calling the company directly, Googling their name and “email,” or if you know of the email format at their company, mimic that with their name.
Then read these tips on networking notes to ensure you get a response.