Chances are you're constantly hearing about the importance of networking when you're looking for a job or planning a career move. But establishing a connection to someone in a position to help you is often easier said than done.
The following guidelines can give you the confidence you need to reach out to professionals in your industry:
Prepare. Before contacting someone, decide in advance what you will be asking that person to do. Always have a clear reason for calling, whether it's to gather resume tips or learn of employment opportunities.
Get to the point. Let people know early in your conversation or letter that you're looking for assistance — and don't be afraid to ask for what you need. After exchanging pleasantries, explain the reason for your call.
Be specific. The clearer your request, the more effective the assistance you receive will be.
Make it easy to say yes. If you approach people in the right manner, they'll more than likely be cooperative. People enjoy helping others. Limit the amount of effort required of the contact. For instance, if you want the person to review your resume, have one ready to be faxed or e-mailed immediately so that he or she doesn't have to wait for it.
Provide value for others. A key part of building a network is becoming a resource for your contacts when they need your help. Assist those you can, whether it's a sending an industry-related article, acting as a reference or introducing them to other people who may be able to aid their career development.