A colleague of mine in the U.K. recently asked whether I could connect him with career officials at universities in the U.S. Happy to assist, I made a few introductions to individuals with whom I am not regularly in contact. The first respondent thanked me and offered to speak with him. And, then she noted that my e-mail had prompted her to ask whether I would consider returning to the school in the next academic year. Opportunity made. No fancy tools. No Twitter followers. Just simple sincere engagement – period.

Many people in the current market struggle with ways to follow up or to even meet members of their target audience. One proven method for reconnecting with a contact with which you have lost touch, continuing the conversation with someone you just met, or initiating contact for the first time is to make an introduction. Doing so reflects your character and genuinely acknowledges the person to whom you are reaching out.

For instance, following an informational interview with a potential employer or an initial meeting with a propsective client, most people will send a short e-mail thanking the person for his or her time. (Savvy networkers may even send a handwritten note.) Next time, consider materially expressing your gratitude with an introduction. Do you know a local journalist or blogger who may be interested in that person’s work? Can you connect him or her to a potential client or referral source? Is there a member of the local community that he or she would like to meet?

In addition to studying someone’s background for an interview or an informal discussion, consider whom that person would like to meet. Lawyers want to meet clients, which could be consumer, business or municipal leaders. They may be in-house counsel or HR managers. Your contact often has a very specific target in mind. Identify a few characteristics of that individual or that community of professionals and you will create an opportunity to follow up.

If you met someone a year or years ago and have been struggling to find a reason to reconnect, you can simply send an introductory e-mail noting that you saw John Smith at an event, which reminded you to reach out and make an introduction to Jane Johnson. Your message should be short and simple – “I just wanted to introduce you to Jane Johnson, the deputy general counsel of ABC Corp. I thought that you would be a perfect resource. I look forward to reconnecting soon.”

Imagine if you did this every time you had a meeting. Not only would it vastly enhance your network, it would encourage others to make introductions in return.

Even if you simply read about someone in a trade publication and wanted to learn more about him or her, you could easily send a similar note: “I read the article on discussion X topic and given your work, I thought that you would want to met Y person.” Or, if you are a blogger (including guest bloggers), you might want to highlight: “I blogged about your work and thought that you would want to meet Z.”

Most people will be inclined to respond positively to such a generous gesture.

In fact, in the current economic climate, most of us see status changes on LinkedIn regularly. A contact’s job title may quietly change to ‘independent’ or ‘freelance’ and we want to help, but are not sure how. Whenever I see this, I send a quick note offering to introduce that individual to my network. I have no expectation of any immediate return, but sincerity has a long life span. When I did this about six months ago, my contact connected me with her former colleague who later hired me for a few ghost writing projects.

Making an introduction is an easy technique that requires no technical skill whatsoever and permits execution with a forgiving amount of imperfection. As such, there is absolutely no barrier to making the attempt and no social media presence required.

That said, you could leverage technology to exponentially enhance this experience by sharing the contact with members of your LinkedIn group, your Facebook fans or your Twitter followers, with a suggestion that others consider learning more about him or her.

The key to creating opportunity in your career or business development is to consider how you can do so for others. Start at the beginning – with an introduction.
Ari Kaplan is the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011) and The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008). He provides strategic consulting and ghostwriting services in the legal industry. He also speaks at law schools, law firms, and bar associations throughout the U.S. about how individuals can stand out in today’s stagnant economy. Buy his new book and receive 1 ½ CLE credits for free - e-mail him for details. And, click on the link to watch his webinar: Five Ways Your Website Can Welcome Your Audience By Converting Clicks Into Clients.