We live in a very connected world where access to the movers and shakers, mentors and potential employers are accessible in a number of ways. If you know how to approach and engage them, you're likely to garner some great opportunities, but miss the mark when you take that first step and you'll likely walk away disappointed and with a scuff on your reputation.
Here are five ways to make a great first impression and make the most of your interactions.
Do you have a mutually-beneficial goal in mind? No one likes to feel used, especially those who have worked very hard to get where they are now. Approaching someone with a "give me" attitude reeks of desperation and entitlement. Instead, think about your skills and desires, what you hope to learn and approach potential mentors/employers with a desire to give as well as receive. If you're interested in picking their brain, have a clear idea of what you want to know, why you want to know it and ask them if they would be willing to do an informational interview via phone, email or in-person. Come with a clear set of questions and always thank them with a handwritten note afterwards.
Are you clear about what you want and what you can bring to the table? We all have talents and skills and it's essential that you have a clear understanding of what yours are and what you're looking for. Before approaching anyone, understand what your number one goal is. Too often people approach others with a vague idea of what they want to do or with a list of three to five projects that they don't realize makes them look unfocused and scattered.
How professional are you coming across in your email/phone call? Reaching out to a stranger with an informal email full of "..." and misspelled words looks juvenile and never--ever--approach a stranger with introductions like "hey there" and "hi mister" or anything of the like. This is not college. With that in mind, use the proper platforms (email and LinkedIn over Facebook).
How can you prove you're dedicated? Actions speak louder than words so if you have an interest in something, take some initial steps before you reach out for the ask. Take a class, begin reading books on the topic, watch a related documentary you can mention or read/watch something provided by the person you are reaching out to and mention it specifically.
How genuine is your interest? Move beyond titles and only reach out to people who you feel a real connection with and feel you can truly learn from. Businesses are made up of human beings and it's essential that you do the research to find those people who are in-sync with your goals and values.