By Lesley Mitler
Mission accomplished! You got the networking meeting. A new sense of optimism prevails. Is this person going to help you take that quantum leap from “applying on line” to being on the top of someone’s list? Maybe, but that depends – on you.
When one of my clients gets a networking meeting, the first thing I ask is, “What is your plan?” And many times I get the same response. “I am going to ask the person I am meeting about their career and how they got to where they are today.” Great plan if you want to flatter someone but what does that do for you? That plan does nothing to help them learn about you. After all, they can’t recommend you to anyone they know unless they get a sense for who you are, how you present yourself and if you will make a positive impression on others.
Sounds like an interview, right? In a very real sense, it is. The difference is that you, not the person you are meeting, are responsible for having an agenda and conducting the meeting. So, what should you do to maximize this opportunity? You must be able to articulate your thoughts and offer a cohesive presentation. Here are some tips for preparing:
- Know what type of company you are interested in. It will help to be specific here. For example, large vs. small? What industry? Types of products or services? Geographic preference? You should be prepared to discuss why you are attracted to those types of organizations. You must demonstrate your interest through previous work experience, internships, community service, and coursework as well as an awareness of current economic or global issues that impact that sector. Show your passion!
- Be clear about the type of job you want. So prior to any meeting, you should have a definite idea about the roles that interest you and why you are interested in those roles. Search online for jobs. Know the common job titles and get a clear understanding of the way employers describe roles and responsibilities. Do your research!
- Explain why you are qualified for the roles that interest you. Since you understand the qualifications needed for the job, explain why you are a qualified candidate – based upon work experience/internships, academic background, and specific skills. Your networking contact will have a much easier time presenting your background to others if they can speak about your relevant skills and experience. Make it easy for your contact to see why you’re a good fit for the job!
- Ask questions. Yes, you do have to do a lot of talking about yourself. But don’t forget to engage your contact. This is your opportunity to learn more about the person you are meeting. Draw them into the conversation. Since you probably read about them online before the meeting, you might want to ask about what they consider to be some of their most significant career highlights and accomplishments. You can also ask for advice. Are there things that you could do that would position you to be a more serious candidate? Are there other roles you should be considering?
Remember, you requested the meeting so you must be fully prepared to take charge. You must be ready with a response to the question, “Why you are here and what guidance are you looking for?” By conducting an effective meeting, you will give your contact the confidence to make further introductions without concern of embarrassment. After all, an introduction is their endorsement and reflects their credibility with others.
One closing thought. We all appreciate the generosity of others to make introductions and advocate for us. I hope all of us can reciprocate when we are in a position to do the same.
Lesley Mitler is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs. An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Smart Money and dozens of other publications.