Having a well-developed professional network almost inevitably leads to occasions for connecting people you know with new opportunities. Sometimes you may find yourself as the catalyst for a relationship between a contact looking to fill a position and an ideal candidate who you know would be a great fit. This a positive development for all involved as it helps out the people you know, builds stronger relationships between you and your contacts, and grows your reputation. But it isn’t always simple to untangle a maze of connections to determine who should meet whom.
If you’re ever asked to set up an introduction between members of your network, follow this set of tips to help smooth the process:
1. Never make a cold introduction. The first step to making a quality introduction is to make sure that each party is informed and prepared to meet each other. Cold intros are awkward and potentially embarrassing affairs that can leave your contacts feeling uncertain of how to act and potentially resentful of you for the impromptu meeting. All you have to do is send a short note to the involved persons informing them of the context of the introduction and what to expect at the meeting. Depending on your own relationship with your contacts, it may be more appropriate to first ask permission to schedule an introduction in the first place.
2. Remember that you are introducing people because you think there is a reason they should meet, so it is up to you to ensure both parties understand what that reason is. This is especially helpful because it gives them some common ground on which to begin a conversation. The more your contacts know about the motivational details of the meeting, the more useful an introduction can become.
3. Once you move beyond your immediate circle of friends and peers, it becomes more necessary to be aware of the power dynamics between people you intend to connect. You have to make sure that what you are asking is appropriate, especially if you are asking a favor of someone. For example, committing the time of a busy senior executive to speak with a clearly unqualified (but nice) friend would be an obvious no-no. Also, acknowledge those times that you are asking a favor of someone by using appropriate wording such as “I’d appreciate if you would…” or “Would you do me a favor…?”
4. Finally, you don’t always have to make connections yourself. By remaining polite and tactful, you can turn down requests for introductions if they make you feel uncomfortable or strike you as inappropriate. It is, after all, your network, and you have built your professional relationships over time and should work to be respectful to your contacts and their time. Liaising for your business connections can help build your network, breed trust and appreciation, and lead to positive relationships between your network contacts, but when faced with a situation that may waste someone’s time, it is best to simply turn down a request.