You know the name of the person you want to connect with? hire you? interview? shadow? talk to? but you don't know how to talk to them or get them to notice you? This is a familiar scenario that seems to crop up time and time again in the conversations I have with people trying to get their idea off the ground or secure that first job or internship.
Making connections is something we do all the time. From the train station to the conference floor – in business mode or out for a drink with friends, you are always making connections. It’s existential; as an ideas person; you literally have to do it. It doesn’t matter whether you are a student or a chef, being prepared and open to making connections is your lifeblood. So how can you seamlessly weave the habit of making connections into your daily routine, both online and off? I've created this list as a starting point ... and I'd love your feedback and tell me how you make a start meaningful connections!
Step 1: Realise they are a human being just like you.
We're just ordinary people ( just like the John Legend Song ). Often you put the person you want to connect with on a pedestal - they are so successful, so talented, so busy that they would never listen to you. That's simply not true - every single one of us relies of connections and relationships and everyone started out as student or a learner.
Step 2: Be personal
Sending the same email to 100 people and changing the name in the opening line doesn't cut it. Show them you know what makes them tick and show that you follow their work. Let a little trickle of your personality shine through too!
Step 3: Be Prepared
There is a chance they will answer you - and quickly! They might ask for more information - to see your website, or dig through your twitter - they will definitely google you. So make sure they find something worth finding.
Step 4: Subject lines matter
Your subject line has to jump out - words like 'opportunity' or 'idea' often make people look twice. When I was a student I used to send 'smiles from Scotland' to authors and practitioners all over the world and most of them answered with a small 'thank you for the smiles' or 'sending you some smiles from Australia' in their replies.
Step 5: Be honest
Just say it! I'd love to buy you coffee to learn more about Y - I'd love to talk to you about X over a hot chocolate - people like to have an excuse to leave the office sometimes.
Step 6: Stop saying sorry!
You don't need to apologise for getting in touch or apologise for causing inconvenience when you are being complementary and enthusiastic. It's nice when people say nice things about you - it makes you smile! I know for me when people email nice things about Snook it can make a really tough day seem bright again.
Step 7: Know what you want
If you want something, ask for it. Do you want a job? Do you want an answer to your question? Do you want feedback? The more specific you are - the clearer your message will be.
Step 8: The meaningful bit
The meaningful bit happens when you are face to face and that's when it's about eye-contact,listening, learning and always offering to buy the coffee. (more on that coming soon as I know the thought of meeting someone for a coffee to talk about your idea is a scary thought for many)
Step 9: Follow up
It always nice to send a tweet or an email to say thank you and remind the person of the key things you took away from the conversation. It has to be timely though - a week later doesn't have the same effect.
Step 10: Digital tools are your friend
You need to have an online presence. No excuses. Seek out people on social media sites that are interested in the same work you are and interact with them. Answer questions, share information, post links, and grow your network.
If you only take one thing away from this post let it be that enthusiasm attracts enthusiasm. Be genuinely enthusiastic and the connections will come.
So what would you add to this list? Starlings have taught me so much about networks.