Everyone wants to be connected to someone important.
Everyone wants to get some sort of edge that will help their lives or career.
But do you know what to do when you actually get what you want? Or do you freak out like a dog who finally caught an ever elusive squirrel?
This is for you – if you’ve ever been introduced to a connection that’s above you in professional stature, or has the ability to vastly help you and your career. Especially if you’ve gotten that opportunity and blown it.
Make no mistake, you can blow it, and most people do.
Most people do others the favor of disqualifying themselves. But after you read this – not you.
First – I don’t write this from a place of much importance. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on many significant entertainment properties and even physical structures, but you’d be very seriously mistaken if you thought that meant I’m somebody.
From an external perspective, I’ve worked hard enough that at least a few people see me as somebody important whether I agree with them or not.
These are the people you want to avoid being, and this is their story. Don’t be like them.
So let’s cook up a scenario:
You wake up tomorrow with an email in your inbox. Your friend suddenly has a connection to Skywalker Sound, and because they’re such an awesome friend they’ve gotten permission to introduce you over email.
What do you do?
Here’s a list off things you must not do under any circumstances, off the top of my head:
- Write any more than a few sentences in your first email
- Not thank the newfound connection for their time
- Screw up their name
- Make spelling mistakes
- Tell them that you absolutely adore their work (debatable, but not wise if you have no reputation)
- Tell them how much you want to work with them
- Give your life story
- Send your resume or CV
- Ask if they have a job for you
- Ask if any positions are open in general
- Tell them how awesome their place of work must be
- Tell them how envious you are of them and how they have such a good job and are so lucky
- Tell them how much you LOVE (games/movies/music/arts/entertainment)
- Offer to work for free
- Ask for any kind of work at all, or an internship
- Describe all of your problems and questions “and things you want to know and ask for help
Ok, you get the idea.
If you use common sense, you’ll likely avoid all of the above – but you’d be surprised at how often people fail this. Even people who know better (like me!) blow it sometimes when they meet just the right person or circumstance and get really excited about the possibilities.
The Right Thing to Do
I’m going to do something I don’t often do – give you something to copy. While this may not be 100% perfect, it’s definitely a great starting point to work from:
Thank you so much for your willingness to connect with me!
<Name of friend> didn’t mention, but I recently graduated from the Art Institute with a degree in <specialization> and I’m currently working to land my first industry job. In working towards that, I’ve done (XYZ) things for the last 4 months, including learning X which unfortunately wasn’t covered in my course curriculum.
As you’re an industry pro, your advice would clearly be invaluable to me. Would you be available to meet next Wednesday for coffee or lunch?
Let’s break this down.
First, you get their name right. Second, you thank them for your time. That was easy, right?!
In the ensuing paragraph, you fill in any missing details about yourself. If your friend already mentioned you’re a recent graduate, great, cut it from your email!
The meat and potatoes comes in where you describe your goal and what you’re already doing to work towards it. Let me make something clear:
If you are not already helping yourself, I cannot help you.
If you expect to meet with someone and get a magic bean of inspiration or information that gives you your dream career, expect to be sorely disappointed.
The only thing I can provide is direction to someone who is already taking action. The action may be misguided – and if so, that’s fine! I’m happy to help course correct. But if you’re sitting on your ass waiting for me to give you something, you’re wasting time for two people by asking for mine. You’re wasting your own time because you know you’d rather be on the couch eating cheetos and bitching about not getting your fair shake!
It’s a huge, huge green light for me to meet or talk with someone if they tell me just a bit about how they’re already taking action. That, to me, means you’ll probably act on my advice. That’s huge.
Lastly – you make your ask clear and specify an exact date (and preferably, time). Here’s the biggest note of all:
If they accept your invitation, you buy their food and/or beverage.
I don’t care if you’re meeting Steven Spielberg and you’re a broke college student. You make the move to spend your only $30 to pay for Spielberg’s lunch, because you respect Spielberg and a tiny way to pay him back for his time (obviously, this is actually impossible). If Spielberg pushes your money away and insists to pay (if you’re awesome, this is possible), then and only then can you put your money away.
As well, if you’re fortunate enough to line up the meeting – you have two more obligations:
- Have the questions you want answered lined up, and clearly prepared.
- Shut up, listen, and take notes on any advice.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE – WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE SAME AREA, OR DIFFERENT TIME ZONES?
Thanks to technology, you can now meet with people anywhere in the world at any time. The person you connect with might not even live in the same country as you! So what do you do in this case, you can’t buy them coffee – right?
Actually, you can!
If I’m meeting with someone in New York (I’m in Seattle), then my conclusion looks something more like this:
“Would you be available for a Skype call next Wednesday during lunch? Please let me know your favorite lunch restaurant and meal – I’d love to treat you to delivery!”
What. The. F. Right?! If someone offered me lunch like this, I’d probably thank them and tell them not to worry about my food. That being said, they’d damn sure get my time simply because they were already willing to think of me so much.
If I were Skyping with someone in another country – I’d probably confirm they have PayPal and shoot them $5-10 without asking permission and tell them it’s for coffee. I’ve literally done this with a Canadian friend of mine who offers consultation by donation – I sent him money and told him to take his lady out to dinner on me.
If any of this sounds harsh or strict – that’s because it is! Because you should want to be awesome and not waste other people’s time!
Believe it or not, I still regularly use this type of formula today to connect with new colleagues and even friends whose time I know is extremely valuable. If I reach out – I want others to know that I’m treating them, and the experience they have with me is going to be pleasurable and worth their time.
So get out there, do it right, and make your next connection count!
Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.