Advice, Breakthroughs, Careers, Kathy Caprino, Powerful Self-Marketing, Tips for Empowerment How To Successfully Reach Out To a Stranger and Connect Written by: Kathy Caprino
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As one who is in the media a good deal through my Forbes, Huffington Post and AARP writing, and through speaking and coaching, I’m approached literally every day by scores of folks who are strangers hoping to connect, speak, get free advice, or inquire about my coaching services.

I’m truly honored and happy to receive requests to connect from those I don’t know (in fact, that’s how I built my LinkedIn connections to over 2,300)!), and I understand that it is a given for me in my line of work to be contacted by folks who want to connect and also need help.  All good.

But having been on the receiving end of hundreds of emails and LinkedIn invites that I LOVE to get, and others that don’t work,  I’d like to share with you my perspective on the right – and the wrong – way to reach out and ask to speak or connect with someone you know only from their online presence.

From my view, there are three vitally important ingredients that need to be present in your communications and in the manner and style of your outreach for you to be successful.  If these are missing, you’ll fail to make a positive connection at best, and annoy and offend your potential contact, at worst.

What 3 ingredients need to be reflected in your outreach?

1)      Do your homework, and demonstrate that

You’re reaching out to this individual presumably because you’ve heard about their work through word of mouth, or an article you read, or a LinkedIn update that resonated with you.  That’s great, but here’s what must come next.  If you want to make a connection with this individual, do your homework, and a lot of it, before writing to them.

Read everything you can about him/her – blog posts, videos, interviews, vlogs, guest posts, his/her book – the works.  Understand as much as you can about the individual and about what you want to know from them, so that when you connect, you have informed and intelligent questions/input to offer.

As Sheryl  Sandberg mentions in her new book Lean In (which I highly recommend, BTW – here’s my review of it on Amazon), she’s put off by people who connect by asking questions like “What’s the culture of Facebook?” Why? Because you can read her answers to that (and Mark Zuckerberg’s as well) everywhere online.  Avoid asking the obvious and don’t pose questions that you can easily find the answers to.   Reach out instead with a unique insight, a positive comment, or a new point of view or question that will be helpful and welcomed by the new contact.

2)  Understand how it truly works to find a mentor

There’s been so much written about how to find and ask for a mentor (here are some great tips via Kerry Hannon on Forbes), and again, I’d echo Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In in her advice about this.  If you have to formally ask “Will you be my mentor?” you are missing the boat and most likely won’t get one.  As Sheryl points out, “the strongest relationships spring out of real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”  The best way to approach it is to find someone currently in your life and career with whom you can build a mutually-beneficial relationship that will help you grow. This needs to be someone who has observed the potential in you already because you’ve demonstrated it to them, and who would enjoy nurturing that potential.  It’s not a complete stranger but someone with whom you are already intersecting in your career or field and who has shown interest in you and would love to be supportive.

If you don’t have anyone in your life that fits that bill, I’d suggest that you endeavor to enlarge your sphere of influence.  Go out in the world in a bigger way, and start connecting online and in person with other professionals who inspire and enliven you.  Check out my Forbes, Huffington Post and AARP blogs for more tips on getting out there, bringing yourself to market, networking, joining organizations and associations that bring you together with exciting, aligned people.  Start sharing your expertise  and learning how to shine (start your own blog, write articles, mentor others, sit on a board, etc).

3)  Take into consideration where your new contact is coming from

Finally, when you reach out to someone who you don’t know, be considerate, respectful and put yourself in their shoes.  In all your communications (at work and in your personal life), think about the receiver of your communications and how they need to be treated and approached in order to able to respond in a positive way.

Be considerate of their time, and understand that building relationships online is exactly like building them in person.  You wouldn’t come up to a stranger at a cocktail party and grill them with questions  about you and your life.  You’d ease into the situation, listen deeply first, and learn about who they are and what they care about. Then, and only then, would you respectfully pose a question or offer a comment that you know is a good fit with their passions, skills, and interests.

* * * * *

I hope these tips are useful as you go out in the world and build your fabulous support network and “ambassadors” for your work. Developing a powerful community and network is truly essential to your growth and success, as is learning how to connect with strangers in ways that enliven them as well as support you.

Incorporate these three ingredients in all your outreach efforts, and go out and connect powerfully!

And feel free to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – I’d love to hear from you, and leave a comment on this post!

(Need some career coaching now? Join me in my new series of FREE monthly career coaching calls.  Come and ask your career or business questions – no matter how big or small!)

5 thoughts on “How To Successfully Reach Out To a Stranger and Connect”

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing. I am off to read your book review of Lean In. Any thoughts on her Ted Talk from a few years ago?

  2. I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as
    well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one

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