Networking is the most critical thing you can to in your job search. It is important to maximize the benefit of each networking meeting. Here are some tips for success.
- Be prepared. Prior to the meeting research the company and the contact. Have insightful questions prepared prior to your meeting. Preparation demonstrates interest as well as your work ethic.
- The day before your meeting call to confirm the time and location of the meeting. Ensure that you know exactly where you are going and allow adequate time to arrive about ten minutes prior to your appointment.
- Networking Profile. Bring a couple copies of your networking profile. This can make it easy for your contact to identify opportunities to assist you in your search. Do not bring resumes. You can always send one as follow-up if it is requested.
- Business Attire. Dress as if the meeting was an interview. Demonstrate that you are a business professional and that you are taking this opportunity seriously.
- Anticipate Logistics. Be sure you have a photo ID available in case it is required by building security. Have your business cards accessible. Bring a small notebook or padfolio with pen so you can take notes. You can also have your questions noted in advance.
- Listen More Than You Talk. While it important for the contact to get to know you, be sure to ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to what the contact is willing to share. You can gain significant insight on the company, the industry and the role based on your questions to the contact.
- Open with Small Talk. Demonstrate your interest in your contact. Break the ice and build a connection. You may ask about something displayed in their office. If referred by a common connection, you could start by talking about how you both know that person. If the contact shares only professional information, do not start talking about outside activities. Mirror the contact’s energy level. Do not spend more than five minutes breaking the ice.
- Be Prepared to Run the Meeting. Some contacts will take the lead but others will sit back and wait for you to drive the meeting since you were the one to request this time together. Have your questions prepared and take notes on their responses.
- Say Thank You. Be respectful of the contact’s time and bring the meeting to a close in the agreed-upon time. Thank the contact for their time and insights. Show genuine appreciation and interest. If follow-up is appropriate, ask permission to follow-up. Exchange business cards. Within 24 hours of your meeting, send a handwritten thank you note. It is a simple but highly effective way to differentiate yourself and be remembered.
- Ask for Additional Contacts. Now that the contact knows a bit more about you, ask who they suggest you speak with and ask if they would be willing to introduce you. A referral from a trusted colleague can open critical doors for you.
A special situation is the meeting with a contact who was referred to you by another contact. In that instance, you should also send a thank you note to the contact who recommended the new contact or made the introduction for you. Show them that you appreciate their support. They may have other valuable connections for you as well.
Following these steps will help you maximize the value of your networking meetings and will help you identify further contacts.