An email arrives from someone you don’t know.
You open it.
As you read, you realize the note is from someone who was referred to you, found you on an alumni database or saw your profile on LinkedIn.
These suppliants often give you a bit of background and then ask you for time to connect via phone or by meeting for coffee.
I strongly suggest you find a way to say yes, even if it takes a month to get a meeting time on the calendar.
This is a scenario that I have had the fortune to see more frequently over the last six months.
As an individual develops professionally, rises in his/her chosen industry and becomes more connected within the local community, there comes a tipping point when he/she goes from being the one always asking to meet with people to being the person who is asked for meetings.
Now that I am personally in the latter situation, I have a much larger appreciation for the wonderful people who took time out of their schedules to sit down and meet with me in the past.
When I receive a professional request to connect, I worry about the things I need to be working on instead of meeting with this new person; I’m not sure I have the time.
My personal philosophy, however, has become: Make time. These encounters are extremely important — they give me a chance give back, to pass along the goodwill that was given to me in the past by professionals in my field.
These meetings are also important because they offer the opportunity to make a new connection, learn someone’s story and what drives him/her. Oftentimes I leave these meet-ups thinking I’ve gained more than I’ve given.
I also recognize that meeting with someone new may leave that individual with a lasting impression that could dramatically impact his/her life.
In most cases, you never know the full impact of being generous with your time and advice, but every once in a while you’ll reconnect with people you’ve met and they’ll express gratitute for your help and share something you said that stuck with them and impacted their thinking.
Overall, I think it’s a huge gift to the community and your network to make the time to accept as many requests as possible.
That doesn’t mean you have to cancel other meetings or that your current work projects have to take a hit.
Even if it takes a few weeks or a month to find the time to meet up, these new contacts will be ecstatic that you took the time to connect with them.
As you talk with a new professional contact, be sure to think about who else in your network this individual would benefit from meeting or who might benefit from meeting this new contact.
Be willing to open doors and make connections — you never know where they might lead.
Tim Huebsch is a “Community Dot Connector” who has served in leadership roles with organizations throughout the Twin Cities and across the nation. His experiences and more details can be found on his website or on Leadership and Community, where he is a regular contributor.