The Ultimate Guide to Networking with Confidence
One of the most difficult things for many people is networking. I am finding it especially hard for younger people in the workforce who rely so heavily on texting and social media. It seems as though we have lost the art of conversation, asking for help and being professional and prepared.
Luckily for you, I think I’m pretty good at this. And when I spoke at USC (my alma mater!) a few weeks ago, I took a poll on my stories to see who wanted my advice on how to network. It was close to 100% of people, which was actually a bit surprising to me. I have some really simple things you can do to WOW people and make a really good first impression while also getting a lot out of the conversation. I’ll use myself as an example throughout this so you know exactly what I did.
First up, figure out who you can connect to in your inner circle. When I was looking for jobs in television while I was in college, I went to parents of friends who I knew worked in tv. Then I connected with the sports information director who handled all the PR for athletics. Then I found one of my advisors in my Journalism School at Annenberg. I emailed each one of these people saying that I was looking for opportunities in sports television and asked if they knew anyone they could connect me with for coffee or a meeting or to forward my resume and highlight reel to.
This then led me to executives at Fox Sports, ESPN and the AVP. It also got me connected with two of my mentors who are still dear friends and mentors to this day. (Listen to my episode with Lindsay Rhodes for our story and more tips and tricks!) When I was connected to these executives, I sent clear and concise emails.
They looked something like this:
Subject: Introduction via Tim Tessalone
Thank you so much for being willing to take the time to check out my reel. I would love an opportunity to cover sports for you. I am currently the host and reporter for USCTrojans.com, uscfootball.com and am the color analyst for the women’s volleyball team. I know you just launched the Friday night high school football package which seems like a great fit for me. I’m open to what you have available and am eager to hear your thoughts on my work.
Thank you and look forward to speaking soon,
Within that email, I linked my resume and highlight reel so it was easily accessible. Notice that I’m not overly eager, pushy, or disrespectful of Tom’s time? That is important. Think about how many emails these people get! SO MANY. Keep it simple and direct. You’ll get much more out of it.
Here’s an example of an email to someone you are going to get coffee with so you can “pick their brain”…
Subject: Introduction via Tim Tessalone
Thank you for being open to meet me for coffee. I am a huge fan of yours and would be so appreciative to learn more about what you do and what next steps I need to take. I am available next Monday and Friday from 8am-12pm if either of those days work for you. I have also attached my reel and resume in case you’d like to take a look before (just so you know what you’re working with!).
Thanks again, and talk soon!
Again, direct and to the point. Saying when you are available is helpful. You can also say, “Please let me know when and where you are available.” Often times it’s better to meet when and where they can, since they’re likely busier and they are doing you a favor.
So, you’ve sent the emails and coordinated the meetings. Now what?
Prepare. Dress presentable. And be on time.
Figure out exactly what you need from this person. If this is an executive or someone with the ability to hire you, know what their company does in detail. Know where you could fit in or what you’re willing to do within that structure. If you can say, “I notice you are working on this project” or “I really love the messaging of the brand because…” then that will go a long way. When they ask you if you have any questions, ask some questions! Show curiosity as well as interest in what they are saying and doing.
If this is a mentor type person, I always like when people come prepared with questions. If you write down five questions that you are dying to know about the business, work environment, company or anything in between, it shows you have done your homework. And be as clear as possible about what you want to do. If you go to a meeting so that someone can map out your career path for you because you haven’t really done the work to figure out what you want, that’s not fair to that person. Come in with thoughts and ideas and as much structure as possible so they can guide you. Even if it’s a list of strengths, weaknesses and things you do and don’t like to do, that shows you care. We all need guidance sometimes, but it’s not their job to figure out your whole life for you.
Dress accordingly. I had someone tell me once to dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Take that for what it’s worth. If I go to meet with a young athlete at USC, I don’t mind if they’re in sweats. It’s the nature of the meeting. But if I am going to meet with an executive, I am definitely dressing up. Being overdressed is always better than under.
Lastly, be on time. Traffic and parking are not excuses. You should leave earlier then. Be respectful of their time. It’s also helpful if you confirm the meeting the day before. It helps everyone involved and shows that you are organized and are taking this seriously.
Once you meet with the person, always follow up with a thank you email or hand-written note. People who give you their time should feel your gratitude.
Putting yourself out there and asking for help or guidance may not be your cup of tea. But it’s not only who you know, but WHO KNOWS YOU. Don’t forget that. And be kind. Good luck networking. And if you have any further questions on this topic, don’t be shy! Comment on my Instagram post and say hi!