Building relationships with powerful people is one of the best things you could do for your career. Imagine being able to send a few emails, sip your coffee and go about your day, and have interviews for your dream jobs pouring in within hours.
Imagine having multiple offers to choose from while everyone else complains that there are “no jobs left” in this economy. You don’t have to be some high level executive to have that experience. The benefits to networking are massive. But doing it the right way takes persistence and a little bit of empathy, which is why most people are so bad at it.
When you’re starting out, it might seem like there’s a huge gap between you and the influencers you want to connect with. After all, why would they ever want to talk to you? The truth is, powerful people would love to help you – if you reach out to them in the right way. I’ve experienced this first hand.
I’ve been able to work with New York Times Bestselling Authors, well known tech entrepreneurs, and top tier companies despite only being in my early 20s. My network has been the single most valuable resource in getting these opportunities, I’ve gotten them all through referrals.
Here is the 3 step process I used to build relationships with powerful people (including sample email scripts you can copy-and-paste):
Step 1: Read their mind
Everyone knows that you have to “add value” when you’re networking. But before you can do that, you have to know what the other person finds valuable first.
Here’s how you do it: After you identify the person you want to connect with, find out everything you can about them and what they’re working on. I like to listen to the podcasts they’re on, watch their interviews on YouTube, read through their blog, and read their bookmarked articles on Delicious.
This way, you’ll know exactly what’s on their mind and what they might need help with. You’ll eventually hear them say something like “I’m working on X and it’s a huge pain”, “I really wish I could get more of Y”, etc.
“The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits.” – Tim Ferriss
Step 2: Add value
Nobody gives a damn about what you want until you give them what they want. Now that you know exactly what’s on their mind, you know how to add value to the successful person you’re reaching out to. You can send them an article that might be useful, share an idea that might be valuable to them, or offer to make an introduction they could benefit from.
I used these exact techniques to reach out to Grammy Award winning rap artist Chamillionaire. After listening to some of his interviews and reading through his tweets, I found out that he was going to San Francisco to meet with tech entrepreneurs and investors. I happened to know some venture capitalists from a big firm in the area, so I offered to make an introduction.
As it turned out, Chamillionaire and one of the venture capitalists I knew happened to be at the same conference – he showed her my email and started the conversation. Simple things like sending a news article can be helpful too.
Here’s an email script you can use:
I noticed on [Twitter, Delicious, Podcast episode, etc] that you’ve recently been looking into [topic]. I found a great article on this topic that shares some really interesting insight, specifically about [insert interesting except]. Here’s the [link].
No reply necessary – I just thought you’d find this useful.
Including “no reply necessary” at the end is a tactic I learned from Ramit Sethi (bestselling author and founder of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com). Busy people have people asking them for things all the time. To them, it feels very refreshing to see someone add value without even expecting a response in return.
Step 3: Do work for them
If you do some work for a successful person you’ll deepen your relationship with them, and pretty much guarantee that you’ll get great referrals from them (if you do a good job, that is). Referrals from powerful people are the best, because they know other powerful people. If they’re in your industry, chances are they know the executives at the companies you want to work at. This will skyrocket your chances of landing your dream job.
After you figure out what their problems are and what they might need help with, you’ll get some ideas about how you can help them with your professional skills. Maybe you’re a film producer and you can help them with their videos. Or maybe you’re good at marketing and you can help them with their email copy.
Here’s a sample email you can send them:
I noticed on [Twitter, specific podcast episode, interview, etc] that you’re currently working on [problem], and I think I may be able to help.
I’m a [include your profession], and I’ve worked with [insert names – the more credible the better] and have gotten [results]. I’d be happy to do the same for you to help you get [specific benefit].
I can send you a plan with more details, but first I’d like to see if you’re interested. Please let me know if you think it’d be a good fit – I’m happy to answer any questions you have.
If you’ve already worked with some credible people in the past, you might be able to charge for your work. But if you haven’t, don’t be afraid of working on a project for free. The referrals you’ll get from working with a successful person will more than make up for it in the long run.
“It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.” – Robert Greene
For now, find one powerful person in your industry who you’d like to build a relationship with, and research their pain points.