Expanding your personal network is one of the most powerful career habits you can cultivate. Whether it's assembling a personal board of directors, finding targeted advice for a problem you're facing, or landing the next opportunity, a robust network is central to your success.
The best time to begin building a network is before you think you'll need it.
But where do you begin making the connections? An introduction from a mutual colleague is always best, so don't be afraid to ask your existing network for a connection.
If you're starting cold, an email with four simple steps will help get you an audience. The four steps you must include are:
Establish a relational connection. Explain who you are relative to them by linking back to mutual colleagues, or simply explaining the impact they've indirectly had on your career.
Define the parameters of the engagement. List 3 to 4 specific questions you'd like their input on. Allow your contact to demonstrate their expertise.
Limit the investment they'll need to make. Proposing a definite time frame (20 minutes for a phone call, 45 minutes for coffee, 90 minutes for lunch) reduces their fear they'll be caught with someone who won't honor their time.
Offer flexibility to honor their schedule. Create options for how they can engage you.
Here's an annotated example of what I'm talking about. This email got me 90 minutes with a key leader who helped shape my perspective on the role I was in at the time.
Here, I didn't follow my own advice to include a definite time cap on the connection. It got me the meeting anyway.
Reach out this week to someone who you can help your career grow using this template. See how it goes. In my experience, most people are eager to connect.