Networking today blends strategies ranging from traditional networking events, to a texted introduction. Whatever your communication mode, your approach should be to express interest in your contacts first, and only then, move forward with your agenda. And this is important:
Your networks flourish relative to the robustness you put into them.
There are five factors that are key to networking conversations. The first apply to its four stages; the fifth revolves around the types of questions you ask.
1. Introduce yourself.
Think back to the last memorable interaction you had with your contact. Or mention a mutual connection – someone you both know. Ask your contact what is going on in his or her personal and professional life. Truly listen to what’s said. Then, respond applicably.
2. Express your situation succinctly.
Write a statement that enables you to summarize your circumstances concisely: “Bob, I was recently part of a downsizing at ABC Company because of the upsurge in outsourcing Human Resources. We just bought a house, and ______,” or “My job was just sent to India, so it’s time for me to move forward.”
3. Gather your information.
When there is common professional connection through an association or network, assume that your listener is open to hearing what you have to say. Make sure to repay this generosity by being respectful of that person’s time and graciously getting to the point.
This is not the place to say, “My dream job would be …” or “My next phase is to ….” When you talk about your ideal job or your intended next steps, you make it more challenging for your listener, who is thinking, “This gal is looking for something quite precise. Any connections I can make will probably not serve her well.” Instead, tell your listener in broad terms what you do, not what you want. Talking about your aspirations only reduces your chances of getting leads.
One caveat here is that this scenario is if you are talking to friends, acquaintances, or professional peers; and seeking leads on job openings – as opposed to talking to managers, executives, or hiring authorities who have the power to hire you. That is a different conversation and marketing approach.
4. Ask for help.
Ask for overall advice about your plans: “If you were in my shoes, Joe, what would you do?” It’s fine to ask if your listener knows of any local companies hiring. You can accomplish even more if you are prudent in asking your questions in a practical order. Which brings us to the fifth step:
5. Ask good and relevant questions.
In my next post, I’ll share ways to work through a system of networking questions that will steer you to jobs that would not otherwise be on your radar. These are the same series of questions asked every day by recruiters across the globe, adapted to meet your needs as a job seeker.
What are your thoughts or personal experiences with networking conversations? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.