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How to make a productive connection with professionals

Wondering how to make your professional friendships and relationships the best they can possibly be? Here’s a rundown of the most effective approach – and what you’ll want to avoid. 

One of my biggest frustrations as a careers advisor is when a student I’ve never met asks me to connect them to a vague category of person they think will be useful to them, for example…

“Hi, I’d liek you to connect me to alumni working in banking” (There’s nearly always a spelling mistake in these messages)

Why does this frustrate me, and why won’t I do it for them? There are three reasons.

If I don’t know them, I don’t understand their motivations and what they have to offer. I can’t pitch them to anybody.

‘Alumni working in banking’ doesn’t tell me anything. Retail banking, investment banking, commercial banking? In Europe, Asia, North America? On the client side, in operations, in the back office?

If this student isn’t motivated enough to meet with me, and hasn’t thought through what they want, there’s no way I’m going to waste other people’s time by putting them in touch.

I am happy to connect motivated students to alumni when there’s a clear value add for everyone involved: when I can add something by brokering the connection, when the student has a clear idea what they want to get from the connection, and where the alumni will be able to offer some insights without having their time wasted.

This diagram outlines when to ask somebody for a connection:

Obviously in box A, I have the trust of the person you want to connect with, and I can make a case for them to invest time in getting to know you.

In B, I have their trust, but it’s hard to pitch you. In C, I can pitch you, but that’s about it. In D, well…. we’re just starting in the wrong place aren’t we?

Which box are you in when you ask for a connection? Let me know in the comments below!


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