In your job search, networking is crucial. We’ve talked about it a hundred times. Networking contacts can point you to new opportunities and may be able to help get you through all the minutia in many job application systems. So when you meet a new potential contact it’s important to follow up and let him or her know you appreciated talking with them. When though does your eagerness become pushy, and your pushiness become a turnoff?
As you first decide when and how to touch base with your new contact, look to the circumstance regarding the initial introduction. If, for instance, you meet at a networking event then there’s more of an expectation to make contact and to use this contact in your job search. You should still be polite, not too pushy, but there’s an expectation you’re all there for a business or career gain.
The real difference comes when you meet someone in a non-traditional networking setting. Surely if you two discussed your job search you are more than welcome to approach your contact again about it. To avoid being pushy, though, wait a minute before taking any action. Don’t wait days until the person may have forgotten you, but don’t send an email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc… request ten minutes after the party. There’s no harm in sending an email the next day when you can get your thoughts together; you’ll also avoid making the person feel like you’re just exploiting them for your job search.
Once you’ve made initial contact, do not push. If you don’t hear from someone for a month, you can try again, politely asking if they received your initial email. The truth is sometimes people are just being polite at networking or other events, and no matter how much you push they may not be able to help in your job search. Instead, try engaging in a purely friendly email the second time around. A Forbes article on improving your networking skills suggests you, “forget you’re ‘working.’” If a contact feels you are only talking to them because of your job search, and they can’t help you immediately, they may be less inclined to answer. Acting like a friend solidifies and sustains that relationship for the future.
When you network with people there’s an expectation of following up, it’s actually the polite thing to do. The problem comes when you push too hard after initial contact. You never want to appear desperate, nor do you want to become a nuisance to someone trying to help you. Learning when to push and when to pull back can be the greatest networking skill in your job search.
What’s your strategy for following up with a networking contact? Do you tend to strike while the iron is hot or prefer the slow play? Share with us in the comments below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Official GDC