How to Build A Network From Scratch in 15 Minutes A Week, Part III

Two weeks ago we started our short series on building your network in just 15 minutes per week by creating a list of all of your affiliations, past and present.  If you missed it, start here.  

Last week we moved on to focus on the affiliations most likely to broaden your network based on sociologist Mark Granovetter’s theory of “the strength of weak ties.” 

Within your weak ties, we focused on people with whom you have shared activities on the premise that it will result in a more diverse network than focusing on people in close proximity to you or people with whom you already have a lot in common.

You then picked one or two of the activities you listed that are both shared activities and constitute weak ties and listed the first 5 people who came to mind who are associated with each one.  This week, we’re going to go back to the list of 10 people you came up with as initial targets to contact.  

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This is a point where many people hit a wall because they feel networking is inauthentic or not something they feel comfortable doing.   But it doesn’t have to be.  Review your list and, before doing any outreach, make a note next to each person’s name with two things: the reason you want to get together with the person and the type of interaction you want to have.  

For many people, you might just want to catch up.  With others, you might want to hear how a new job is going, get their perspective on a shared industry, or see if there’s an opportunity to collaborate or pitch them for business.  Whatever it is, write it down for each person.  That will be helpful both when you reach out to them and to refer back to before you see them.    

The type of interaction can be the most complicated part of this week’s assignment, especially now that more people are being thoughtful about the messages that some invitations could convey.  A drink after work might may be easiest to arrange and most common in some cities/professions, for example.  That does not necessarily mean it is the invitation you should extend.  For some people, whether because of after work commitments, an unpredictable work schedule, concerns about messages, or just personal preference, coffee in the middle of the afternoon may feel more natural. 

Going beyond coffee or a drink

Remember that the reason you picked the 10 people you selected is because you have a shared activity in common.  So don’t limit yourself to coffee or drinks; come up with activities that fit your personality and the personality of the person you’d like to meet with, and that allow you to get out of your normal routine.  One attorney I know likes to try out new restaurants so he prefers meals to drinks or coffees, and often includes his spouse and the other person’s in order to make the interaction more natural and more of a date rather than additional time away from his wife. 

A realtor I know is passionate about a particular charity so she buys tables at the many events the charity holds each year and invites people from her network to attend as her guest.  Another attorney I know uses her firm’s sports tickets to spend time with people in her network on the theory she gets to know them better over the course of a basketball game than she would a 30 minute coffee.  Still others like to work out with contacts (though that is probably best only with people you know very well, so think that one through carefully before suggesting it), volunteer together, or go to professional association events.  Whatever route you choose, propose something that feels comfortable to you and for the other person.

Once you have a list of what you’d like to get out of each interaction and what you’d like to ask each person to do (coffee, lunch, etc.), go ahead and start reaching out to contacts.   To avoid having 10 meetings to schedule in the same week, reach out to 2-3 people this week.  And when you reach out, remember that a specific ask (“coffee one afternoon the week of the 14th”) is more likely to be scheduled and avoid 30 emails back and forth than a generic “love to catch up sometime.”

If you have trouble drafting outreach emails, feel free to reach out – we’ll be happy to share sample language with you.

Next week we’ll wrap up our series on building your network in just 15 minutes per week with how to follow up.  In the meantime, don’t forget to avoid the three common networking mistakes

Save the Date

And mark your calendar for Thursday, June 28 at 1 eastern/noon central/11 mountain/10 Pacific when we’ll be doing a free webinar on what to do and what to avoid during networking meetings.   Join our email list or like us on Facebook to be sure you don’t miss it when registration opens.     

Thanks for reading, and please share any networking questions or tips in the comments.