This article is an excerpt from Let’s Go to NYC, my ebook for those interested in moving to New York City from outside the States.
As you might already know, I love Twitter. Sure, it can be a scary and depressing place at times. But I’ve made some great friends on Twitter and still find it a productive place to learn, share my thoughts and make connections. It's also one of the best tools to network and get to know people who may be able to help you land your dream job or project.
This particular article is about networking with the aim of moving to New York, but some of these lessons can apply to anyone.
The easiest way to network is of course through friends of friends, but for those moving to NYC from another country (or anyone networking from afar) that’s not always possible. If you’re in NYC on your tourist visa checking out the city, tweet at some people and ask if they have time for a few questions. But before you do that, here are some handy guidelines.
DO send a short tweet to the people you’d like to meet. Keep it simple and casual.
DON’T say things like, “Can I pick your brain?” Nobody likes that and chances are low that someone replies with excitement. People in New York tend to be busy, and asking someone if you can pick their brain sounds like extra work.
DO try to meet for coffee or lunch. Lunch is the best option because it’s a limited amount of time, and everyone has to eat anyway. You will have a better chance meeting someone for lunch at their company than trying to schedule a couple beers or dinner. Beers and dinner have no designated time limit — 30 minutes is too short, 1 hour might seem rushed, 2+ hours is too long. Save that for your second date.
DON’T be complicated with the specifics. If someone agrees to meet, propose three example dates for lunch and offer to come to their office. And don't end your note with the famous, "What do you think?" No one likes to think, they like solutions. Remember this isn't about them, it's about you.
DO make it as easy as possible for the person you’d like to meet. They’re doing you a favor, after all. Put yourself in the shoes of someone you are contacting. Think of how you’d like to be approached by a stranger.
DON’T be afraid to follow up. You might not get a response the first time, so give it a few days and send it again. But don't be discouraged if they say no or you don't hear back at all. I personally get a lot of messages from people who visit New York and want to meet. I decline most of them because if I said yes to everyone, I would have a full-time job meeting up with people. It’s not that I don’t like to meet people, but I simply can’t afford it all the time.
DO have a goal in mind when you meet or approach a person. Just "meeting up to chat" is not bad at all, but chances are high a busy person isn't in the mood for that. Small talk might ease the tension at first but if you want something, make it clear as soon as possible.
DON’T talk around the subject for too long. Don't let the other person play a guessing game and more importantly, don't waste their time. Once you've lost the attention or respect it will be hard to gain again.
If you want more advice about living in and working in New York, check out Let’s Go To NYC. It’s the full guide to finding a job in the city, getting your visa, finding your first apartment and more.
P.S. You might also be interested in this article about emailing a busy person. If Twitter is "first base" in your networking relationship, email is second. And there's a right and wrong way to network there too. I hope these tips will help in either case 🙂