You may find yourself writing for The Huffington Post. You may find yourself getting trolled. And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

In my case, it was about being online at the right time during a webinar, reaching out immediately to co-founder Arianna Huffington and thanking her for welcoming diverse voices to her platform. Her response? Let’s get you blogging.

You may also find yourself having an informational meeting with a high-ranking employee at a prominent Seattle-area company, learning about how his team hires. In this case, it was my husband who was genuinely moved by a message this executive shared in a video, so he found him on LinkedIn to acknowledge his candor. Soon after, my husband had the meeting that helped him understand the company’s hiring process.

While serendipity played a role in both these scenarios, they share a common theme: meeting people where they are in a particular moment.

The beauty of the internet is that you can connect online with just about anyone. Sure, it takes some gumption to reach out, but if you think strategically, then you, too, will have a story to share.

1. Go where the action is. Social media is one giant cauldron of hot topics and trends. Find the topics/hashtags that speak to your convictions and career goals, and you’ll likely find others who share your values. Be part of the conversation with professionals, artists and activists, and target certain individuals to message directly.

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2. Make a connection. Maybe you want to meet a colleague of one of your friends or someone who attended the same college. The line between two people shortens quickly if you have something or someone in common. Send a connection request noting your commonality, and watch the response rate rise.

3. Time it right. Keep it short. Many job seekers have told me they’ve asked potential contacts to do them favors, like look at their portfolio or forward their resume. I’ve advised them that a better request is to reach out to new connections during business hours asking for a 10-15 minute phone call or a “virtual” coffee date. Be specific about what interests you, and have a few questions ready to go.

4. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Ask potential connections about something they wrote or posted. Perhaps you noticed a project they helped bring to market? People generally feel flattered when someone notices what they’ve done or said, and they tend to like to share what they’ve learned.

5. Remember milestones. Social media is good about reminding us of birthdays and work anniversaries. Plus, just about everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, right? What better excuse to reach out with well wishes! Perhaps you can meet up over a birthday treat or holiday happy hour to learn about their work? That informational interview just got sweeter.

Go forth and connect! Just be yourself and see what opportunity lies on the other side. And, of course, when someone contacts you looking for a break, some insight or an introduction, always pay it forward.

Rebecca Kraus, Seattle Times Explore columnist
Rebecca Kraus, Seattle Times Explore columnist