In the last post, we established:
- There is at least one person willing to help you in this process of figuring out what you want to do
- You need to tell them that you need help and how they can help you
This post is about how to ask for help.
Step 1: Compile a list of people to contact. Think about who is in your inner, middle, and outer circles. Write down the names of your family, friends, teachers, classmates, alumni, community associates, etc. You can grow this list by building your network, which typically involves going to events, getting involved, and meeting new people. (Scroll down to the bottom of my last post and read my friend’s comment on building your network.)
Step 2: Select a subset of people from that list of contacts to reach out to. If this is your first foray into networking, start with an A-Team of the 5-7 people closest to you, then build from there in future iterations.
Step 3: Ask for help in connecting you to people who may be helpful to talk to. You can ask in person, over the phone, or via email (click here for examples), but be sure to include the following:
- Provide context (what is going on with you): At what point are you in your studies, career, life? How is it going?
- Define your need (why do you need help): What are you interested in? Are you trying to learn more about a specific field? Are you trying to get a sense of what options exist, given your interests and skills? Are you seeking specific advice about something?
- Call to Action (what specific thing they can do to help): Given what you are interested in learning more about, ask whether they know anyone who would be helpful to speak with. If they do, ask whether they can introduce you to the person or give you the person’s contact information.
Step 4: Collect contact information of people you would like to speak to. Get as many details as you can about who they are, what they are currently doing, and what they have done in the past.
Step 5: Ask for informational interviews. This process is similar to step 3, with the following modifications:
- Provide context (what is going on with you): Because this person may be further removed from your initial set of connections, you should provide more context. Who are you? How are you connected/ how did you get their contact info? What is your background?
- Define your need (why do you need help): What are you interested in learning about? Be sure to tailor this to the person’s background. What kind of advice would you like to receive? What types of information can they provide you with?
- Call to Action (what specific thing they can do to help): Ask whether they would be willing to chat with you for for 15-20 minutes in person or over the phone. Meeting in person is much more effective than over the phone, so offer to meet at a place/time that is most convenient for them.
Step 6: Follow up. If you don’t receive a response at first, don’t take it personally. Often, folks are just busy. Reach out again and ask whether they’d be willing to speak with you. If they don’t have time, they may refer you to someone else you can talk to.
Step 7: Do the informational interview thing. More on that in the next post. If you did everything right, you should have walked away with more people to reach out to.
Step 8: Send thank-you’s, to both the person who you spoke with and the person who referred you to them.
Step 9: Repeat steps 2-8.
Step 10: Periodically provide an update on how you’re doing to the people you have contacted. If you keep in contact with the new people you meet, they may eventually become part of your closer network.
The important thing to keep in mind is that networking should be an ongoing effort, not just something you do when you need something.