The following blog was written during my time at Indiana INTERNnet and was originally published here.
You faced your fears and attended a networking event – perhaps it was one of Indiana INTERNnet’s summer engagement events – and made a great connection. You feel as though you navigated the conversation successfully, kept your stories relevant, and bonded with the person. You even went so far as to remember to ask for their card, so you have all the information necessary to follow up with them. How do you go about doing it?
Following up with someone, whether it is a stranger you met at a conference or a past supervisor you had for an internship, does not have to feel awkward. It can seem daunting to put yourself out on a limb and reach out to someone that you don’t know well or that you haven’t spoken to lately. The main thing that will help in either of those situations is to be confident in what you’re doing.
Have a Reason (That Doesn’t Serve You)
If possible, tie your message back to something that’s relevant to the person you’re contacting. Try to keep your tone conversational; ask them if they’d like to meet up again to continue a past conversation or bring up an article you read lately that you know the person would enjoy. Avoid self-serving questions like, “Heard of any good jobs lately?” These types of direct inquiries will put most people off and make it clear that you’re only interested in personal opportunities as opposed to building relationships.
Following up after an event should occur with 24 hours of meeting the person. With this method, you have an automatic reason to contact them:
Good morning [Name],
It was a pleasure to meet you yesterday at [Event Name]! I really enjoyed hearing about your experience [insert part of conversation]. I would love to hear more about the work that you do. Would you want to meet up for coffee some time, my treat?
The short example above clearly outlines intentions of getting to know the person better without indicating the benefit that the sender would receive for doing so.
If you are in need of a reference or other answers from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, be patient with the ask. Provide them with an opportunity to update you with how their life has been in the weeks or months since you’ve last seen each other. You want the follow-up to flow like a conversation. It is highly likely that the conversation will naturally segue from what they have been up to back to you. If they ask what’s new with you, this is your chance to bring up the opportunity or question you have had in the back of your mind:
Thanks for asking! I have been pretty busy lately between work and school, but I recently found out about a very cool opportunity at [company name]. [Provide a sentence describing the opportunity]. I am thinking of applying, would you mind if I put you down as a reference?
In an ideal work relationship, the above scenario would never happen. If you feel that during your internship, you connected with your supervisor and did a great job of contributing to the organization, you should make a point to keep in touch once the internship is over. This is obviously easier said than done.
On an annual basis, Her Campus suggests that you reach out three times a year to past supervisors.
Connecting with supervisors and other colleagues on LinkedIn is also a great way to be proactive about keeping in touch. This option will allow you to keep up with that the person is doing, even though you no longer see them regularly. It opens up a window of opportunity to create a connection in your phone call or email:
Hi [Name]! I know it’s been a while since my internship ended, but I just noticed on LinkedIn that you celebrated a work anniversary last week. Would you like to get coffee sometime to celebrate and catch up?
This short message not only congratulates someone you respect, it provides an automatic opening for you to meet up. Once in person, you should be able to eventually segue into whatever question or favor you might need to ask. Just remember, be patient and kind!
When following up with a person, whether it be a connection you made at a conference or a co-worker you haven’t seen in a while, it doesn’t have to be awkward. The most important thing is to keep in mind that while networking is important for your career (link to networking blog), it’s all about building and maintaining relationships. The goal is to travel this two-way street of communication with professionalism and confidence.
For more ideas on following-up, check out these email templates from The Muse.