How to Navigate Networking Introductions with Grace

It’s easy to feel awkward when you’re being introduced to someone in a networking capacity. If you’re feeling awkward, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

If a mutual contact is introducing you to his former co-worker, John Doe, how will you feel when Joe reaches out and says “Hi–I can’t wait to hear about what job openings your company might have that would be a match for me since I really want to work there!”

For some recipients, this feels awkward. If the employer doesn’t currently have any relevant openings, that could be the end of the conversation. On the other hand, if there are openings, but the recipient isn’t sure whether John Doe would be the best candidate, her or she might be worried about offending John Doe or offending the mutual contact.

Now what if John Doe simply said he’d be interested in chatting with the person based on a shared interest in marketing? That might feel less intimidating. And then based on the conversation, that executive might be able to figure out that he actually is an ideal candidate for the opening, and at that point could invite him to interview for it (or refer him to the hiring manager).

While many people are comfortable with ambiguity and open-ended networking conversations, some executives and managers prefer the transparency of saying upfront that you’re interested in jobs at their company. There’s no right or wrong way, and the way you choose won’t necessarily work well for every person. You’ll have to do what feels right to you.

Here’s what feels right to me — and what has worked well for many of my clients.

My 7 tips for navigating networking introductions with grace:

  1. Avoid stating an objective for having a conversation other than getting to know each other — keep it open-ended
  2. Avoid sending your resume
  3. Build a relationship first; develop a rapport
  4. Be ready to describe your ideal employer (will give them a better idea of who they can introduce you to)
  5. The other person may offer to help in some way without being asked
  6. If they don’t offer to help in some way, but you developed a good rapport, you could ask if they’d be able to introduce you to someone at a particular company (or companies) of interest, or ask if they know any companies that might be a fit for you based on what you’ve described
  7. You can connect on LinkedIn; and then if they happen to be connected to any people at companies you’re interested in, you’ll be able to see that when you do a search for people who work at the company