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You dressed up in your nicest blazer and business casual top, threw on your new flats, printed out a few copies of your resume, grabbed your business cards, and went to the networking event your co-worker invited you to.  Although slightly overwhelmed, you met many inspirational and empowering businesswomen and men, and after a night full of handshakes, intimidating conversation starters, and stimulating chats, you returned home with a handful of new business cards, inspired and motivated to start your career off on the right foot.  

The next morning, you wake up rejuvenated and ready to go, grab a cup of coffee, and lay the business cards out in front of you on your desk… and freeze.  What are you supposed do next?  Do you call their companies for a meeting?  Send them thank you notes?  Email them immediately ‘just saying hi’?  Or do you tuck their info away, until a future occasion arises when you need the connection for a job interview?

7.13.Slide

Purchase kate spade new york 'let's do lunch' business card holder here! 

While some professionals might enjoy cute stationery or a casual email, most who give out their business cards in networking events expect formality, respect (no matter your age or status difference), and an acknowledgement of your meeting, usually sent by email within one to two days after your encounter.  Although the follow up options sound intimidating, with a few simple tips you can create networking connections that will continue for a long while:

1) Keep an updated list

Before even sending out your first email, start a list of all the connections you've made, regardless of whether or not you think they will be beneficial for your future career (you might be surprised who it’s good to know).  Write down the date you met, the date you reached out, when they followed through, each time you met, etc.  These dates will come in handy in the future when you need to use a connection for your benefit.  This list will also remind you when it’s been awhile and you need follow-up with someone so you don’t lose touch.

Example:

Meagan Hooper (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) - Founder and CEO of bSmart:

  - Met at White House on 6/09
  - Initial email sent on 6/10, M.H. responded same day
  - First meeting at the Waldorf Bistro on 6/15 
  - Future Meeting set for 7/01

  - Potential connection for future job position - Secretary of State (3rd degrees from First Lady) 

Adding notes regarding topics of conversation or personal information you learned (# of kids, pets, spouse, etc) can also be useful! 

 

2) Send a quick, formal email

All you really need is to take initiative and send a quick email thanking the person that you met for talking to you and giving you their information.  Then propose how you would like to reconnect.  Whether it is extending an invitation to coffee or lunch (on you!), getting a face to face meeting, suggesting someone they should want to meet, or requesting to send information, the follow-up email does not need to be long.  Straight to the point is much better.  

People, especially professionals, have busy lives and will not want to spend a lot of time sifting through a long, winding email.  Save the questions and flattery for the actual meeting.  Stay pleasant, and don’t become pushy if they don’t respond within the first few days.

The best follow-up email includes context of where you met, purpose of why you are writing them, and a request for a future meeting.  It’s that simple!

Here's an example:

Subject: Free for coffee? On me!

Hello Mrs. Obama,

Thank you so much again for taking the time to speak with me at the White House Networking Event in November.  It was great to have a chance to hear a little bit about your background in law, and hearing about some of the cases you worked on has certainly heightened my interest in this field.

I know you must be very busy, but I thought I’d try my luck.  Would you be available to grab a coffee for 20 minutes this Wednesday or Thursday at 5pm?  Please let me know!

Thank you,

Jacqui Ritchie-Dunham

 

3) Keep it Going!

Once you’ve had a face to face or phone meeting with your new connection, set yourself a reminder to keep in contact with them.  Email for advice, meet them again, or ask if they could help connect you to someone else.  Continue to take initiative, without becoming a nuisance.  It’s on you to continue the connection, and if you do so respectfully and pleasantly, they will be able to help you in the future!

Don’t be afraid to make the first move, and you'll be respected for being courageous.

Use your connections wisely.  Take initiative, email a short and respectful request, meet with them, let them be the stars of the show, and continue to reach out to them.  Don’t be afraid to make the first move, and you will be respected for being courageous.  You got it girl!

 

Jacqui Ritchie-Dunham is an incoming Junior at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she studies Russian and Eurasian Politics and Economics.  This coming academic year Jacqui will be living abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she will be studying and doing research for her senior thesis. Jacqui loves to travel, write, sing in choirs around the world, and explore the unknown!

 

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