This post continues our series on common mistakes in building out your professional network. Check out our previous posts on sending a cold email, making introductions, and sending follow-ups.
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to grow your network is to have your existing connections introduce you to new people. Warm introductions are always preferred over cold outreach for providing a foundation for a strong professional relationship. But if you’re not careful then you could run afoul of several potential pitfalls of this networking fundamental.
Use it or lose it
By far the most common mistake when it comes to asking for introductions is not doing it at all. Most people fail to realize just how valuable their existing network can be when it comes to getting to know more people.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, trying to get educated on a subject, or searching for new customers, your existing network is probably your most valuable asset for getting connected to the people you need to know. If you find yourself gearing up for a campaign to expand your network, always consider first how your existing connections might be able to help you. Look for connections in common on LinkedIn. Reach out to your connections who are tangentially connected to the area you’re looking to infiltrate. Whatever you do, save the cold emails for a last resort.
Set the context
As you may have read in our article on making introductions, it’s important that any introduction be a value-add for both parties. Assuming the person you’re asking for an intro is privy to this pro-tip, they’ll be looking for some rationale from you on why this connection is a good thing for them to foster.
Instead of reaching out to Mary and saying, “Hey, it would be great if you could connect me to Frank”, try something like “I’ve been trying to learn more about artificial intelligence and came across Frank’s profile. He seems like an expert and I noticed you were connected. Would you be willing to ask him if he’d like to chat with me?” That context will be invaluable to Mary in figuring out whether or not it makes sense for her to use some of her social capital to make the intro. Not to mention that she may have three other people like Frank that she’s also willing to introduce you to!
Make it easy
Any time you’re trawling your network asking for help you should try to make the ask as easy as possible. Because you’re asking a connection to go out of their way for you, you should at least make sure it’s not too far out of their way and show that you’ve put in some effort yourself. Setting the context goes a long way toward this: it reduces the amount of effort the person has to put in to figure out if the connection is worthwhile.
There are a few other best practices you can follow to lubricate the potential introduction-making:
- Set the context. Hopefully it’s really sunk in how helpful this can be by now.
- Make your email forwardable. If the person you’re asking for an introduction can just forward your email on to the third party, then it becomes logistically trivial for them to foster the connection. If your initial email must contain information that isn’t forwardable, then make the offer to send a follow-up forwardable if helpful.
- Spread the love. If you’re asking for a lot of intros in a short period of time, make sure the requests are going out to a variety of people. The more help you ask from one person the harder it’s going to feel for them to keep complying.
- Follow up. The very best networkers make sure to close the loop after the introduction has been made so the introducer knows that they were helpful. It may not make the first request easier, but it will definitely make them more willing to help in the future.
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