There’s a risk in attending professional development and networking events like Inspiring from Within. It’s the risk of not following up.
At McMaster, as at any large organization, people can sometimes feel like they’re working in silos. IFW helps us break out of those silos and get to know other people. If we don’t follow up, those acquaintances are made and lost. So why don’t we follow up?
Time pressure certainly plays a role. But here’s the good news: it’s okay to acknowledge time pressure and follow up anyway. Go ahead and follow up while IFW is still a fresh experience. But make the invitation for some time down the road. Try something like this: “It was great to meet you at IFW, and I want to make sure that we stay in touch. While it’s a hectic time of year now, why don’t we schedule a time to meet up in [month x]?”
Fear plays another role. Sure, we’re all adults, but no one loves the vulnerability that goes along with reaching out to a new acquaintance. One way of handling this is being focused in your invitation. If the person you’d like to stay in touch with has expertise you’re hoping to draw on, be clear about that in your invitation. Try something like, “You mentioned that your office recently put a social media strategy in place. Could we set up a half hour meeting to talk about what you found most useful when developing your strategy, and any pitfalls you think we should be aware of?”
Of course, there’s another way of dealing with fear. Imagine the roles were reversed, and someone from IFW is reaching out to you to meet for a coffee, discuss a topic you know a lot about, or conduct an informational interview with you. Chances are you’d say yes, in the name of collegiality – and also because it’s nice to know that a colleague respects you and your knowledge. When you follow up with someone you’ve met, that’s how you make them feel.
So, share your appreciation, and follow up!