Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The Courtship

Courtship [kawrt–ship, kohrt-

noun

  1. the wooing of one person by another.
  2. the period during which such wooing takes place.

In other words: the period of a time you spend dating, trying to figure out whether or not you think that the rela­tion­ship will go long term. The courtship is the most exhil­a­rating and exciting part of the dating time­line, but it can also be filled with con­fu­sion and anx­iety. Sim­i­larly, when trying to cul­ti­vate a net­working rela­tion­ship with a dream employer, it’s dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate the social niceties without shooting your­self in the foot.

Let’s go back to the dating example. It’s the day after a suc­cessful first date; there was great con­ver­sa­tion, deli­cious food and most impor­tantly, a con­nec­tion. You sent a text that night saying that you had a great time. Now what? “Should I call him/​her? Is it too soon? What if they think I’m annoying?” Not sur­pris­ingly, these are sim­ilar to the ques­tions I get from clients after they have a suc­cessful infor­ma­tional inter­view. “When should I follow up? Will they think I’m annoying? I don’t want to come off too needy.”

Since my last post, we know that the first step to keeping the net­working rela­tion­ship alive is to send an email thanking the person (scroll to the bottom of the link) for their time and citing con­ver­sa­tion bits you found espe­cially helpful and/​or inter­esting. I would also sug­gest including a closing sen­tence that says you’ll update them on your progress over the next few weeks/​months. Like dating, it’s easier and feels less awk­ward to follow up with some­body when you have a reason to and it con­firms that you were actively lis­tening at the meeting.

Dating example: “Hey Kelly, Are you free Thursday night? You said you love 90’s movies when we met and they’re playing Ter­mi­nator 2: Judg­ment Day at the Hatch Shell, want to go?” Why yes, mys­tery man, I would (but seri­ously, I would).

Net­working example: “Dear Amelia, Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks back. I took your advice and fol­lowed up with Fred in accounting. He gave me some great insight on how to nav­i­gate the finance job market at some of the larger firms and much of what he said com­pli­mented the advice you gave me. I’ll be cer­tain to keep in touch with you as I con­tinue my job search and I appre­ciate all of your help thus far. If you have other sug­ges­tions for me or hear of an oppor­tu­nity that may be a good fit, I’d appre­ciate it if you kept me in mind. Thanks again!”

While the thank you email should be sent within 24 hours of your ini­tial net­working meeting, your follow up is depen­dent on you. If you met with Fred just a week after meeting with Amelia, it’s fine to follow up with Amelia after speaking to Fred, and in fact, I’d highly sug­gest that you do, even if it’s only been a week. Use your common sense and just don’t be a stalker. Follow up with Amelia in 4–6 weeks after your Fred email to update her on your progress from there. It doesn’t have to be a long email, just a short, check-​​in.

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Image source: www​.con​de​nast​store​.com

Although it may seem slightly redun­dant and simple, fol­lowing up is the most impor­tant part of the net­working rela­tion­ship for a few rea­sons. First, it keeps you fresh in their mind in case some­thing opens up or if they hear of any­thing else­where that they think you’d be a good fit for. Second it demon­strates polite­ness and pro­fes­sion­alism. Now that you’ve had a solid con­ver­sa­tion and a of couple email exchanges, they’ll feel more com­fort­able vouching for you. Finally, it gets the person to care, even just a little bit more, about your career. People gen­er­ally like the feeling of helping out some­body else– thanking them and fol­lowing up con­firms that they were helpful. The goal is to get them invested in your career so you have them as a life­long con­tact. Amelia is prob­ably feeling pretty good about her­self at this point.

All in all, the key to the courtship phase of the networking/​dating rela­tion­ship is to follow up! Just use your common sense and don’t be rude about it. You wouldn’t ask some­body to be your boyfriend or girl­friend without going on mul­tiple dates first, so don’t expect that your con­tact is going to go out on a limb for you and hand you a job right away. Like any rela­tion­ship, it takes time to foster and grow. Your net­work should serve as an infor­ma­tion resource and it’s impor­tant to be patient and know that not every­thing is in your (or their) con­trol when it comes to the job market. Embrace For­rest Gump-​​esque serendipity and know that most people are willing to help, but you need to do the work.

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get mar­ried. Final post of the series next week: Let’s Go Steady.

How have you fol­lowed up with your net­working con­tact? Has anyone ever con­nected you to some­body that’s helped land you a full-​​time posi­tion or internship?

Kelly Scott is Assis­tant Director of Career Devel­op­ment and Social Media Out­reach at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. A social media enthu­siast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about work­place cul­ture and per­sonal online branding. For more career insight, follow/​tweet her at @kellydscott4.