The Art of Follow-Up & Building Authentic Professional Relationships

Developing Authentic Relationships Through Networking

In my last blog post, Getting Started with Informational Interviews.  I wrote about how to find people to speak to, how to request a meeting, and what to ask during these networking meetings. In this post, I want to focus on what should happen after that meeting to develop an authentic professional relationship.

One thing to note is that not all networking meetings will turn into long term connections and that is okay. It’s a bit like dating in some ways. You meet a lot of people and some of those relationships don’t go anywhere while others may turn into friendships or something even deeper.  Networking works in a similar way in that you have to meet a lot of people first, before you can start to figure out who you want to stay in touch with and then from those connections, which of those will eventually turn into friendships, mentors, or just good connections to have in your network.

Let’s Define Networking

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about networking, which makes people feel uncomfortable with networking or knowing how to effectively network. People have told me in coaching sessions that they don’t network because they feel like they have nothing to give or that they are bothering the person. Networking is a two way street and involves a mutual exchange of information. It is basically just about building and maintaining relationships. We are told that we should network during a job search or when we are thinking about a possible career move because data suggests more than 50% of jobs are found via networking. A few studies have suggested that the number may be even closer to 80%. A networking meeting should be seen as a way to learn something from someone else or to offer help in some way.

What Happens in a Networking Meeting

Remember that networking is just another word for relationship management. If you are unsure on how to set up a networking meeting or what questions to ask, check out my last blog post, Getting Started with Informational Interviews. If you are the initiator of the networking meeting, you want to always make sure you communicate clearly your intent for the meeting and focus on asking questions and listening, rather than talking. I tend to request networking meetings to get to know new people that I can learn from or help in some way. It feels like a more comfortable way to approach a networking situation rather than going in just to ask for a favor or to get connected to a job.

How to Close Networking Meetings to Continue the Conversation

I recommend closing networking meetings with some type of “ask” but you want to make sure it is an “easy” ask. Here are some examples of questions you can ask at the end of the meeting to ensure that there is some type of follow-up after:

  • What networking groups are you active in or that you have found helpful for your career?
  • What books have you read recently that you recommend?
  • Who else should I be speaking to?
  • Would it be okay if I connected with you on {insert social media they use}
  • Is there anything I can do to help you?

Why Following Up is Important

Most networking meetings are 20-30 minutes long and there is not enough time to develop a relationship during that time so what you do after makes a huge difference in how that relationship will evolve over time. I’ve always remembered people who took the time to follow up with me after and had written me a thoughtful thank you email sharing some of the things that were helpful to them or any advice they decided to act upon. I always follow up after any type of networking meeting and connect on the different social channels so that I can continue to stay in their orbit and in touch with them. I’ve developed friendships on Twitter after initially meeting someone during a networking meeting.

How To Follow Up

People always ask me, “what is the best way to follow up” and stay in touch with someone after a networking meeting?. Here are my top 4 tips:

  1. Express your gratitude: They took time out of their busy schedule to meet with you so make sure they know you appreciate this kind gesture.
  2. Show them you were listening: Mention something very specific from your conversation in your follow-up email. Maybe you shared something similar like an interest or they told you about a resource to check out.
  3. Stay in touch: Your first follow-up email should be immediately, within the same day, or latest within 24 hours. Your follow-up email can mention what actions you took after the meeting or something that you wanted to share with them. You also can ask a follow-up question.
  4. Engage with them on social media: comment on their posts, use @mentions, or DM them on their social media accounts. 

If you are not sure what to say in a follow-up email, Teal’s Informational Interview Guide and Communication Templates have sample email templates you can customize and use to write follow-up emails for networking meetings.

The Long Term Benefits of Networking

Networking does not need to feel difficult if you look at it as a way to make new connections, learn new things, and help others. Joining a community like Teal is an easy way to connect with others who understand why networking is important. I’ve seen the benefits of networking through the Teal community as people have helped each other with job leads or by giving each other support after a rejection from a job interview. I’ve also seen a lot of friendships grow out of these same networking connections. It starts out with a virtual coffee meeting and then later turns into a regular monthly chat. I’ve even observed some people become mentors to others over time as the relationship developed. When we network, we don’t always think about the future but sometimes that one conversation will lead to a valuable benefit much later down the road.

LinkedIn Profile Analysis Ad 1
Teal Resume Builder Ad
Teal LinkedIn Profile Analysis
Dave Fano

Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

We help you find
the career dream.