You’ve heard the saying “slow but steady wins the race”.
Well, networking is a slow but steady process. It may not feel like the fastest route to your next job, but it is certainly the most effective. Networking requires you have some patience as you reconnect with friends and build new relationships.
You Won’t Land A Job During Your First Conversation
Please don’t expect to immediately gain ANYTHING from networking because the point of networking is to build relationships and that just takes time. Your first meeting with someone, whether it be at an event or even over coffee is supposed to be about building a connection. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. People need to feel they know, like and trust you before they are willing to turn over valuable information (names of people they know or information about jobs). Stop expecting so much from that first encounter.
How To Build A Relationship
So what will you talk about when you first meet someone? Actually, you don’t really need to do much talking, just ask them questions and learn about the person you are meeting. Try to find something in common. (Make Small Talk)
Your conversation can start on a personal level – interests, activities, or where the person is from. Or it may be professional – associations they belong to, groups they attend, past employers, or current events (stay away from religion and politics). Ask open-ended questions to really get the dialogue going. Here are some to think about:
- Are you originally from the area?
- What made you decide to come to this event?
- How did you get into your line of work (always better if you can personalize this by stating the line of work, rather than generic, it shows you’ve been listening)
There are additional open-ended questions you can tailor to your needs in this post, Networking Is a Waste of Time, Or Is It?
What’s the Difference Between Networking and an Informational Interview?
What is an “Informational Interview” or as I prefer to call it an informational meeting? It is when you ask to meet someone whom you may or may not know and ask to learn more about what they do or for information about the company they work for.
Networking is a more general conversation, though it may lead to an informational meeting. Most people are flattered to be asked, IF, you ask in a flattering way. Informational Interviews is Networking lays this out.
You will hear these terms used interchangeably. In short, networking is the broad, overarching action of having a conversation. Informational meetings are specific conversations in which you learn about someone’s experience, background or company.
Staying In Touch
Once you’ve had your meeting and gathered information, it is up to you to find reasons to stay in touch with the person, this is called nurturing your network. Connecting on LinkedIn is one way to solidify your relationship and makes it easier to keep in touch. But you can and should find reasons to reach out to the person you met with. Here are some ideas:
- Provide an update on your exploration/job search
- Invite someone to join you in attending an event
- Share an article or book you think will be of interest
- Introduce two people you think will benefit from knowing one another
You can find other ways to stay in touch here Nurture Your Network with These 11 Ideas