Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating: The Initial Approach Part II

Last week we touched upon the social/​in person approach to net­working, or what I referred to as “hap­pen­stance”, where you meet some­body by chance or ide­ally, pur­posely put your­self in sit­u­a­tions where you could poten­tially meet some­body that shares sim­ilar inter­ests (net­working event, stu­dent group, you get it).

Well, con­grat­u­la­tions! You have now grad­u­ated to “the blind approach” and “online dating/​networking,” so let’s get this party started.

Let’s start with the net­working equiv­a­lent to online dating: LinkedIn.  So you’re on OKCupid, or Match​.com and you’re browsing pro­files, looking for people with sim­ilar inter­ests that catch your eye (Tinder is too shallow for this, sorry).  Let’s just point out the obvious: you’re not looking for your life partner. Yes, that person may very well be your soul mate, but for now you’re just looking for a nice date and some good food.  You find a suit­able match; you send them a mes­sage and wait. LinkedIn acts very sim­i­larly, but instead of looking for poten­tial future exes, you’re looking for people who either work in a place you’re inter­ested in working, or in a posi­tion that you’re inter­ested in learning more about.

Let me reit­erate, you’re not looking for some­body to give you a job, but just trying to con­nect, learn about, and ask for advice from some­body in the industry.  Just like on the first date you wouldn’t ask some­body to be your bf/​gf, you wouldn’t ask for a job during an infor­ma­tional inter­view– which is what these are called btw (if you don’t know what that is, I sug­gest you click the link above).  Net­working– like dating– can be a slow process, you have to invest the time and energy to learn more about that person and com­pany.  Then with luck and timing, it gen­er­ally blos­soms into some­thing better.

Let’s say you are inter­ested in working for Google.  Assuming your LI pro­file is sparkling the internship movie wilson vaughn and up-​​to-​​date, you decide to do an advanced people search and type “North­eastern” into the school and “Google” into the com­pany sec­tion. Your search reveals that you actu­ally have 3 first degree con­nec­tions, and 15 second degree con­nec­tions! (Who knew Aunt Sally had a friend that works at Google?) So you browse their pro­files to deter­mine which person’s pro­file appeals to you and who you think would be best to talk to in order to learn more about Google.  Pretty stan­dard and the process is not too dis­sim­ilar from perusing OKCupid profiles.

The Career Devel­op­ment web­site actu­ally has a guide and lan­guage you can use to help you draft a mes­sage to a person you may not know that well (or at all). Also, check the cal­endar for “LinkedIn 2: Advanced Net­working” work­shops, which run every other week to give you a more in depth look into how to nav­i­gate LinkedIn to con­nect with people.

So you send your mes­sage, and you wait.  Good for you!  You’ve “blindly approached” some­body online!  And sim­ilar to online dating, feel free to follow up after a couple weeks if some­body doesn’t respond. Maybe they didn’t get your mes­sage.  Just don’t be a stalker and follow up 3 hours later. Des­per­a­tion is never attractive.

PS: if you are doing this at a net­working event or family party, the same rules apply!  Don’t forget to ask for a busi­ness card and tell them you’ll follow up and keep them posted, that way they expect to hear from you.

Have you ever blindly approached some­body for an infor­ma­tional inter­view? If so, what advice do you have for others? If not, what are your reservations?

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.