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Seeking Advice: Networking Protocol that Builds Bridges

It has happened to all of us.  We are introduced to a professional colleague who piques our interest.  Maybe they are pursuing a line of business that intrigues us…maybe they have a body of expertise we want to know more about…perhaps we simply want to know how they got to where they are.  Knowing how to approach that individual in a respectful and focused way is key to building a relationship.

I have experienced, myself, individuals seeking me out for advice and input.  I am always happy to volunteer my time to support a colleague AND too often I find that the approach can be fine-tuned to avoid awkward, unfocused conversations that tend burn bridges rather than build them.

My suggestion is to follow this protocol:

  • Email the professional colleague first and remind them of where and how you met.
  • Make a specific ask.
  • Offer to take them to lunch or for a coffee OR request a time-bound phone call.
  • Follow-up with a thank you card or gesture.

The initial request might go something like this:

Sandra, I met you at last evening’s XXX networking event.  I was delighted that Bob Jones introduced us.  I have long admired your success and would welcome the opportunity to take you out to lunch or for a coffee.  I have one very specific area of interest that I would love your feedback on – Serving on a Board.  I am at a place in my career where I believe it is time to pursue a board placement and because you have served on so many boards – I know I could learn from you and would greatly appreciate your guidance.

Let me know if in the next month or so your schedule would allow me to take you to lunch or a coffee. If for any reason your schedule is too full at this time, I would appreciate a 20 minute phone chat and I promise to honor that time period.

Thanks so much….

I have found overtime, that this kind of respectful and focused “ask” reaps affirmative responses and it positions you as a true professional.