Sunday, February 17, 2013

Networking in Small 1-to-1 Conversations: How Do I Do It?

Talking with people in your network in order to share information about you, as well as seek information and advice, is a time-tested technique for finding a new position or enhancing the one you’ve got!        But why?
It's a Smart Strategy!
Because . . . as folks in your network of contacts learn about you, and the needs you can fill in an organization, they begin to think of you in that context.  Remember, establishing and maintaining visibility is an attribute of successful job seekers  (Please refer to 6 Traits of Successful Job Seekers.)

When your network contacts hear of an opening, or a potential one, in their own organization or in the company of a friend or colleague, because you have networked with them and maintained your visibility, they think of you and refer you.  That’s a triple win - for you the job seeker, your contact, and the hiring organization.

 Whether following up with contacts you’ve made at a large scale event, or individually contacting members of your network is a smart strategy.  So, set up meetings to talk about the good things you bring into an organization as well as to learn what they know about organizations in which you could be an asset.  There just could be a job in it for you!

Successful 1-to-1 networking meetings are just conversations
Seem intimidating, doesn’t it?  Sitting down with a colleague or a referral from a member of your own network, and discussing your job search objective.  But, in fact, all we’re really talking about here is a conversation – a conversation between you and a person in your network.

If you are new to networking, or just getting your job search underway, early conversations are  likely going to be with a person you already know.  However, as time goes by and your immediate network refers you to people they know, you will be setting up conversations with these referrals -  people you are meeting for the first time.  In either case, the method for setting up and conducting a 1-to-1 networking conversation is the same.
Here's how to prepare for a successful 1-to-1 networking conversation!

How to set up a networking conversation
        1.    Contact the person whom you would like to meet with and suggest a meeting.
            a.    Face to face --  across a table over a coffee  --  is best; it provides you with the most opportunity to gain the greatest amount of information.
            b.    However, in today’s widely dispersed world, your conversation may be over the phone.

        2.    Set the date and time for your conversation.
            a.    If meeting in person, suggest a location and be specific.  In any metropolitan area, the coffee shop on the corner could be any 1 of 50 such shops.
            b.    If meeting by phone over a great distance, clarify time zones.  Be specific.

        3.    Prepare your contact for your conversation, stating your purpose for the meeting.
            a.    Tell them you are “on the employment market” and why.
            b.    Send an advance copy of your resume, and other marketing materials that show/showcase your
                   capabilities.  This could include a Bio, article by/about you, etc.

        4.    Tell them why you have chosen them to meet with them.  A little flattery, if sincere and honest
               won't hurt!
            a.    For instance, you might complement their depth and breadth of knowledge of their industry or
                   field and say that you would appreciate the opportunity to learn from them.
            b.    Or, you might say that you are aware they know all the who’s who’s of the industry.

        5.    Tell them that you will take no more than about 15 or 20 minutes of their time - no more -
                to learn from them.
            a.    Busy people really want to help; however, they fear getting tied up in a long meeting.
            b.    But most can spare 15 or 20 minutes.
            c.    Note:  Keep an eye on the time and signal when time’s up; if they want to continue beyond that
                   time, that’s good for you.  But, if they can’t afford the time, you have kept your word!

●  How to conduct a networking conversation 
The time has arrived for your meeting.  To hold this conversation successfully:
1.   Clarify your objective with your network contact as to why you requested the meeting to talk with them.  Open the conversation by stating your purpose in having chosen them.

2.  Say your “L”vator speech.  It is the most effective and efficient method of describing succinctly – in less than a minute –  what you do, what you’re good at, and what you want to do professionally.

3.  Ask pertinent questions.  Ask them about their knowledge of good organizations, people, associations, and headhunters/search firms that might be beneficial to you.

4.  Actively listen to their responses.    Take notes.
BUY the Coffee!

5.  And, by the way . . . . .  Buy the coffee - Should go without saying, but I am witness to the fact that it BUY THE COFFEE!! 
doesn’t always happen.  If your contact is taking their time, and sharing their knowledge, the least you can do is

How to follow-up a networking conversation
 – Following up is a Smart Strategy. More job opportunities are probably lost by lack of follow-up than any other failure of job seekers.  Successful job seekers when asked say that one thing they would have done differently to speed up their search was to Follow-Up!  Here’s how:

        1.     Follow up your networking meeting with a heartfelt Thank You note.
            a.    Thanking your networking contact at the end of the phone or in-person meeting is essential but NOT ENOUGH..
            b.    Follow-up with a Thank Your note  –  an e-mail or a mailed, written note  – , should:
                i.    Express your appreciation not only for their time but for the valuable information they shared.
                ii.    Be specific.  State specific items and topics he/she discussed that you found valuable, insightful, and beneficial.
                iii.    Mention your intent to contact the referrals your contact suggested, if he/she noted people in her/his network that they would put you in touch with.  Or, if he/she is contacting them for you by way of introduction, reiterate that both to be sure you’ve got it right and as a reminder.
                iv.    Conclude by saying that you will keep them posted about your progress.

        2.  Stay visible and update your contact on your search progress every 3 weeks or so.
            a.  Send an e-mail or make a phone call.
            B.  Caution:   To contact your networking contact every week is too often - you're in danger of being seen as a pest.  To contact them after 5 or 6 weeks is too long; they may assume you have found a job.

Your purpose in 1-to-1 networking meetings is to learn . . .
Your purpose, in a 1-to-1 networking conversation or meeting, is ultimately to learn what the other person knows about potential employers, helpful people, beneficial professional associations, and other good sources of information that could lead to employment for you. 

Following the step-by-step process described here will help you do that and achieve your goal of finding a new or better position.

It’s a Smart Strategy! 
____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
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