The world we live in today is overwhelmingly connected by networks. People who share similar interests, people who have had similar experiences — these are the individuals who form our professional and personal communities.
Perhaps it’s a network of colleagues at your company. Perhaps it’s a network of recipients of a prestigious scholarship. Perhaps it’s simply a network of friends who gather every week for a book club. My networks range from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to Georgetown alumni to United Nations Fellows to Postcrossers, and the list goes on and on.
Whenever I meet someone new, I immediately think about who else I can connect them with. While this might seem as simple as sending a connector email between the individuals you have in mind, there are some do’s and don’ts to consider when attempting to pair those people.
1. DON’T connect someone who you don’t actually know that well.
If you randomly met someone once at a conference six months ago and you happen to have their business card and you kind of-sort of-maybe remember that they’re into sports for development, and then you’ve just recently met someone who lives-eats-sleeps sports for development, then you probably don’t want to connect those two people. Only connect people who you can vouch for on both sides. While a great connection reflects back very positively on you, a poor connection can reflect back very negatively. I’m not saying you need to be BFFs with both of the individuals you’re connecting, but the connection does need to be thoughtful.
2. DO ask for permission before you connect someone.
This is a pro tip. You should always ask for someone’s permission before connecting them with someone else. Not the permission of the new person who wants to be connected — the permission of the old person who doesn’t yet know they’re about to be connected. You never know what people are going through in their personal or professional lives, and you don’t want to start connecting people who actually don’t have the time nor interest to be connected. Shoot your contact a quick note saying you met so-and-so person at such-and-such event who does x-y-z thing and that they want to talk to them, and is that okay. No means no, and yes means they’ll always remember meeting through you and your awesome connection skills.
3. DON’T only connect people when you need something.
I dislike the word networking because I feel like it implies something disingenuous, at least in the way I most commonly find it used. I prefer relationship building, because when you build relationships with people you’re strengthening a foundation upon which you’ll be able to liaise with them for years to come. If you only send connector emails when you need something, it’s not authentic – and everyone involved will know it. Instead, send occasional connector emails to key contacts whenever you find something relevant to them: an article they would read, a fellowship they’d be perfect for, a meetup event in their city, etc. Sending tailored, personal updates to your networks every now and then will slowly and subtly solidify your professional relationships for when you actually do need something.
4. DO write a dope introductory email that makes both people feel amazing about themselves.
The trick to expertly managing relationships is making people feel good. When you stroke someone’s ego in an introductory email, I guarantee you they will not forget it nor take it for granted. (It = You.) Don’t get me wrong — I’m not suggesting that you overstate or lie about who each person is or what they do. But people want to be seen, recognized, and valued – as they should be! Hopefully you’re connecting cool people with cool people so their accomplishments should speak for themselves, and then in the future, your new friends will speak for you.
In the last three years, all of my jobs and professional Fellowships were secured almost exclusively through personal connections. Connections are the building blocks upon which great ideas, great businesses, and great networks are formed. So connect the people who you think should know each another because they probably should know each another. Just remember to connect them well.
About the Author – Nicole Banister
Nicole Banister (@theycallmebanz) is a writer, speaker, and international partnerships manager. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Nicole is passionate about mobilizing organizations across the globe to capitalize on the existing assets of marginalized communities to facilitate sustainable empowerment initiatives.
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