Successful Networking with Busy People

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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As luck would have it, the people with whom you most want to network are usually the busiest. Trying to connect with them can be challenging, because there’s so much competition for their time.


But busy people are often the best contacts you can have. Most people who are always busy are that way for a good reason: a large number of people want to network with them.


 For greater success, remember these tips when reaching out to busy people:

  •  Think like a busy person. Consider their perspective. A busy person is unlikely give you a lot of attention without a really good reason. The fact that you reached out to them is not necessarily a guarantee that you’ll receive a response. Try not to take it personally.
  • Be unique. Avoid sending the same thing they've seen 500 times already this week. If your email looks like everyone else's or your phone call sounds like everyone else's, you're going to the same place all of those people have gone: to the virtual wastebasket.
  • Use the least clogged communication channels. E-mail is almost always a bad idea. Even non-busy people frequently have more e-mail than they can reasonably answer. The phone may or may not be a good idea, depending on the person and their field of business.
  •  The busy person you have your sights on may receive upwards of hundreds of communications every day. They can’t give the same amount of attention to every contact. Just as your local emergency room must assist patients based on the severity of their medical issues, this is how a busy person also their interpersonal to-do list.
  • You may have a great and even noble reason for reaching out to them. But you must see reality from their perspective if you want to succeed in making contact. Would you rather spend a few extra hours returning phone calls and answering e-mails from strangers, or would you rather spend that time with your friends and family?
  • As you can see, busy people have to be very selective when it comes to returning communication attempts. This isn’t rudeness. They’re just being effective. Realizing this gives you a much better chance of connecting with them. Accept the fact that you're going to have to function within their reality and not within your own.
  •  Give them something unique if you want a personal reply instead of a canned response or no response at all.
  • If you are reaching out to someone you don’t know, don’t ask for a lot. What do I mean? Well, first of all, keep your request simple and easy to fulfil. I heard a podcast where Maya Angelou was talking about the first time she communicated with Oprah Winfrey. This is long before Oprah was famous. She was new in her career and reached out to Maya and asked for 5 minutes of her time. She stayed true to her word however, Maya keep the conversation going. This was the beginning of their friendship.
  • Make your request simple, easy and doable yet still valuable for you. Don’t ask for an Excel spreadsheet of the company’s history comparing it to the history of the prices of eggs in China. That sounds like a lot of work and is not easy to answer. Ask simple questions that someone could answer without researching. Ask for simple career advice rather than a job. Be gracious when you follow-up if you haven’t heard back, “I know that you are extremely busy…I was just following up on the email below I sent requesting …..”
  • Are you confident your e-mail will be read? Consider good, old snail mail. Most of us don't get mail anymore besides bills. It would be even better if you hand wrote it on real stationary. You can guarantee it will be opened and read, especially if it is sent via FedEx or UPS.

 Be creative in your approach. Making meaningful contact with busy people can be challenging, but it can certainly be accomplished. Always consider their perspective and the time pressure that exists in their lives. If you’re thoughtful, polite, and at least a little inventive, you can add that busy person to your contact list!

Additional Resources

Finding Meaningful Work

How to Create an Elevator Pitch Employers Want to Hear

How to Develop a Career Plan That Will Bring You Happiness

How to Discover the Career of Your Dreams

How to Plan a Career Change

How to Reinvent Your Career

How to Turn Your Dream Job into a Reality

Learn How to Write an Effective Self-Assessment to Boost Your Career

Making the Most of a Career Fair

Networking When You Hate Networking