There will inevitably come a time when you want or need to be introduced to someone. It could be for an informational interview about a company or industry, a job referral, funding for your startup, or any number of things. These introductions are an important benefit of the ongoing work of building, maintaining, and nurturing your professional networks. Introductions require spending social capital, so you want to ensure the people you ask to introduce you to others think highly of your skills and character. Beyond that, you also want to make the work of an introduction as low a lift for them as possible.
Over the years, I’ve found there are a few rules of engagement for asking for and receiving introductions.
Be clear on your why and your what [the ask]. This seems obvious, but do your homework on the target. If you’re asking for an introduction to a person, you’ve probably done at least a bit of research about them. But it pays to go one level deeper, if only to make yourself stand out from however many other people are also asking for their time (this is especially true for senior and/or high profile people). Research their background and their accomplishments. What have they done that makes YOU so keen to talk to them? And what specifically do you hope to gain from speaking with them? Be crystal clear on your why and your what before you even think of reaching out to a mutual friend or colleague for a connection. If you can’t articulate your aim, then chances are the ask won’t be a good use of your or anyone else’s time.
Make sure the potential connector feels comfortable making a double opt-in intro. I’ve already discussed the evils of single opt-in intros in an earlier essay. Make sure that your connector knows the person well and uses the double opt-in intro on your behalf. I’m still cringing about the time someone included me in a single opt-in intro a few months ago. As I read the email, my stomach dropped in mortification. Don’t be that person. Be up front about your ask and why you want to talk to the other person. [Bonus: here are my handy templates for repelling single opt-in intros yourself]
Follow up promptly, and do all the work. Following up should be easy because your connector has already gotten buy in…