Congratulations! You successfully identified a contact at a target company and your contact agreed to a twenty minute meeting. Now what do you do?
It is critical that you do your homework prior to the meeting. Gather information to demonstrate that you respect your contact’s time and be conversant on the company. Use the company website and other business website to learn more about the company, including recent events, competition, financial results. Google the person you will be meeting with to see what you can learn in advance. Review the individual’s LinkedIn profile. This research helps you identify questions to ask. It also demonstrates to the contact that you are well prepared and professional.
The most successful networking meetings are information interviews. You should be prepared to ask your contact questions to learn about the company, the work environment, specific functional areas and jobs, the industry and critical skills for success. You should be doing significantly more listening than talking in an informational interview. Ask for advice from the contact. Be prepared to offer assistance in return to show appreciation for their support.
Talking About Yourself
Rule #1 of networking – never ask for a job! You need to build a relationship and hopefully as a result that person can recommend you in the future for appropriate openings. In the meantime, you are trying to learn as much as you can. You may be asked a few questions such as:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why are you interested in this organization?
- What about this industry appeals to you?
You should be prepared to answer questions about yourself if asked but you don’t start the meeting focused on you. Your goal is to gather information from your contact through an informational interview.
Keep the meeting to the agreed-upon time frame and end with a sincere thank you for their time and insights. Always send a handwritten thank you note. This helps make you more memorable and gets the relationship off to a strong start.
If you’ve been asking yourself, “Is it time for a career change?” informational interviews can give you a great head start. Take a look at some other ways to guage whether it really is time for a career change.