We constantly hear networking is important, but women can face negative consequences for perceived self-promotion. Plus, it can feel downright uncomfortable to make requests of your professional contacts, asking them to introduce you to others. Here are the strategies and templates I use to make e-introductions less painful and more effective for everyone involved.
1. Be specific
After going through one of my workshops, a recent graduate student asked if I could help her find potential job opportunities. I asked her to go through the contacts in my LinkedIn profile and let me know to whom specifically she wanted me to send her resume.
I get a lot of requests for introductions like this, and I don't always know or remember offhand who in my network would be most valuable in any given situation. Asking her to go through my LinkedIn contacts serves two purposes. First, it makes the process easier on me, and second, it ensures she gets connected with the people who will be most helpful, perhaps even jogging my brain about who else I know that could be relevant.
When you approach someone who’s busy and ask them to plug you into their network, make the request as specific as possible. Looking at their LinkedIn account or the professional associations that they’re a part of can be a great start.
2. Provide sample language for the e-intro
I remember thinking it was weird when professors in college agreed to give me a recommendation letter on the condition that I wrote the first draft. Now, having been on both sides of the equation, I get it. I was asking the professor to do something time consuming, and as the person applying for the job or fellowship, there’s a good chance I knew more about what would make a strong application.
You can use use the same approach in networking. When you ask someone to provide an e-intro, write some sample language for the introduction.
I recently had a fantastic business development meeting, and the woman I met with offered to introduce me to several of her colleagues in other organizations. Below is an excerpt of my email to her. The underlined portion is what I left blank for her to fill in.
It was such a pleasure talking with you today! [Personal note about the conversation.]
Thank you so much for offering to introduce me to the following people: [list of people] I’ve shared sample email language along with my bio below, in case that’s helpful.
I recently met with [context for how they know me], Lelia Gowland. She runs Gowland LLC, which focuses on women and workplace dynamics. Much of her work centers on supporting women in workplace negotiations.
I thought your office would be a good fit given ____. Would you or someone from your team be willing to meet with her to see if there's a way she can support your work? [specific request]
Basically, whenever I’m asking for an e-intro, I pull up this email text. Within the template I use for myself, I’ve created a fill-in-the-blank template for them to introduce me easily. Templates for the win.
Using this approach, I've made it extremely easy for my contact to take action, thereby increasing the likelihood that the intro happens. I've also gotten to demonstrate my credibility and make my work more relevant to the person receiving the email.
3. Close the loop
If someone has provided me an introduction that's resulted in a new contract or important client relationship, I'm a big fan of the handwritten thank you note. In other instances, a quick text or email in gratitude will suffice. I recently dropped a friend/professional contact this note after finally connecting with someone she had recommended I get in touch with:
I just had the best visit with [name]. Thank you again for the intro! [Something specific that relates back to our conversation]
Building a network can feel daunting and tedious. Having templates and strategies you implement consistently can make networking less stressful and more effective.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.