I am a big fan of career networking. Believe me when I say I was not born a socialite or Miss Universe material. My own experiences have proven that networking is the type of thing that you need to do whether you like it or not. It’s kind of like exercising; you need to do it on a regular basis since there is no fast track for a six pack.
There are some basics that I would like to share because I often receive emails asking about good strategies.
By all means, networking doesn’t restrict itself to face-to-face meetings. It could be simply an email introduction or a phone call. I strongly encourage face-to-face contact whenever possible as it is more personal and you can leave a more memorable impression.
1) Set Your Goal – What’s the purpose of connecting with another person?
You should look for ways to get valuable information in a networking meeting in any way possible. People you meet while networking can be helpful in two ways: they can give you the information you are looking for or they can refer you to someone else who has the information. Don’t ask for any information which your contact doesn’t know or is unable to provide, as it can be rather embarrassing for them. If you do so, you might also lose your valuable contacts.
2) Set Clear Expectations – What do you want the other person to do?
When you are about to set up a meeting, send the person an advance email stating that you will be calling them. If it is okay, also mention the contact person who referred you and confirm the time and place for the meeting in a telephone call. If it is necessary, the meeting can be held over the phone, but you should be really careful in such cases to get what you are looking for.
3) Be Prepared – What’s on the agenda?
Time is absolutely precious, so make sure you respect that. When the meeting is set, make sure to allow some time for them to prepare. If possible, send them an agenda or your CV along with a list of all the companies you plan to target. Also make sure that you have clear print copy of the information if you will be meeting face-to-face.
4) Double Check – Things may have changed last minute.
Make sure the other person is still okay with the arrangement: send a friendly reminder via email or leave a message. Always take the time to reconfirm your meeting the day before.
5) Don’t Be Late – Do I really need to explain this? You have already put in so much effort into the process getting this meeting – you don’t want to be late!
6) A Little Advice – Please try to avoid meetings over meals, especially if you are a messy eater or you like sizzling dishes.
7) Clear Next Step
Usually this means a second meeting or a follow-up phone call. Please allow yourself to be flexible if you consider the meeting positive. The next arrangement should happen within a reasonable time frame. Setting up a second meeting in nine months does not show you think this meeting had a successful outcome. It is also not acceptable if the other person wants to meet again and you tell him you have movie plans!
8) The Key – Remember you are never asking for a job.
Rather, you are asking for advice and additional people to whom you can be referred. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Most importantly, don’t forget to offer to provide assistance in the future; relationships are about give and take. Even if the meeting didn’t get the result or answer you want, make sure before you leave the meeting that you have set up a process where you can follow up with them and continue to build the relationship.
9) Last Step – Say thank you
Email the person who has spent time to meet with you and also the person who referred you in the first place a thank you note. Making just a little bit more effort to post a thank you card will set you apart and may create a difference in how you are perceived.
Please stay tuned! I will continue with Part 2 – basic business etiquette in the next couple of days.