Your Network is Your Net Worth: Mentors & Connections IRL & Online

Want to learn how to reach out to industries pros you admire, without coming off like a creep? Join us for our FREE virtual workshop “The Art of the Informational Interview” on Tuesday, April 11th from 8:00pm-9:00pm. Learn more and register here:

If, like me, you get hives from the word “networking,” then you know how difficult it can be to reach out to professionals in your field, whether you’re inquiring about a job or internship, or just trying to get on their radar.

At FindSpark’s Find & Follow Your Passion Conference, Emily Cavalier of Havas Media, Sandra Oboh of truTV, Shirley Yu of Trim Magazine, and Diandra Barnwell of Cosmopolitan discussed how they went about building and maintaining a network and gain mentors.

FindSpark Network is Your Net Worth

Build a network based on mutual benefits.

When reaching out to someone, market your skills so they know you are not only looking for their assistance but that they will also benefit from this relationship. Be available for them and eager to help with whatever they need.

Cavalier said it works best for her when people offer to volunteer, have something to contribute, and are genuine. It is imperative to be prepared, know about the person and what you could do to help them.

It is also important to seek out professional events and talk to as many people as possible; you never know who may be able to help you in the future. By staying in touch with the casual connections you make at networking events you will be able to have a large and diverse network.

If you reach out to someone and don’t hear back from them, try, try  again. Chances are they are not blowing you off on purpose; they probably just forgot to respond or didn’t have time to get back to you at that time.

Try again around two weeks later; it may be a better time to connect with you. Don’t be discouraged, building a network takes time. Be persistent, but not annoying!

Find & maintain mentorship.

Mentors are an invaluable resource that can not just help you when you run into bumps in the road but also celebrate your successes. A great way to meet these professionals is to join organizations at your school or in your field.

Be willing to help out and support the organization’s leaders, go to the events and participate as much as possible to make genuine and organic connections. This gives you a common ground to reach out to a particular person and makes initiating a conversation easier and much less awkward.

When approaching a prospective mentor, have a topic you want to talk about and make a specific plan and purpose as to why you are contacting them. Most importantly, remember the best mentor/mentee relationships happen organically when you work with someone or share a common interest.

Remember your mentor should be gaining something from you as well; the relationship has to be reciprocated to be helpful to either of you. Establish a mode of communication that works for both of you, using a platform and frequency that works for both of your schedules. Do you have monthly phone calls, or check in over email?

Most importantly, a mentor should be available to answer questions honestly and give earnest, helpful advice, just as you should be willing to assist your mentor and appreciate all that you take away from your relationship.

FindSpark Network is Your Net Worth

Step out of your comfort zone.

If you feel awkward in face-to-face networking party situations, you are not alone. All of our panelists are self-proclaimed introverts and they all gave their advice on how to initiate conversations and make connections even when you are not the most comfortable.

Use the internet to your advantage. LinkedIn, email, and Twitter are all marvelous channels to keep up with perspective connections. Make Twitter lists of people you admire and a list of people who support you, and keep up with people’s successes on LinkedIn. When emailing, be concise and let your work speak for you. “Don’t fake a big personality if that isn’t you,” says Yu.

When attending events know in advance who you want to talk to, make an introduction and be sure to follow up via email with a question or pertinent information that will interest them and keep the conversation going.

Do you have a mentor? Share your story in the comments!

Want to learn how to reach out to industries pros you admire, without coming off like a creep? Join us for our FREE virtual workshop “The Art of the Informational Interview” on Tuesday, April 11th from 8:00pm-9:00pm. Learn more and register here:

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