In my last two blog posts, I outlined the steps to help you; identify networking opportunities, prepare for the networking event, and meet new professionals. If you haven’t been able to read the two previous posts, you can access them here. In this final post of the mini-series, I will discuss the last three steps of the strategy.
In my opinion, these three steps are crucial but often missed by most professionals.
Step 6: Identify Potential Networking Partners
After attending a networking event, go through the pile of business cards you acquired and identify the individuals you think be ideal networking partners for you.
Ideal Networking Partners
Ideal networking partners have a variety of different qualities to them. The first criteria is to look for is they work in an area that compliments you. For example, if you work as a real estate agent, it may be beneficial to establish a networking partnership with a mortgage lender as both of you could benefit from the relationship. As a job seeker, you’ll most likely want to meet with individuals who currently work in the area you are interested in.
In addition, it is also beneficial to do a gut check on who you feel like you would get along with. After all, you’re trying to establish a new professional relationship and you don’t want to be stuck with someone that you don’t get along with.
Step 7: Have a 1 on 1 meeting
A 1 on 1 meeting is an opportunity for you and the potential networking partner to meet individually to get to know one another.
Asking for a 1 on 1 meeting
Before asking for a 1 on 1 meeting, you’ll want to have a couple of things identified. First, you’ll want to make sure you have a reason for meeting. This purpose may be different depending upon the reason you’re networking. If you’re a job seeker, this might be to an informational interview, where you ask the individual questions about their work. It is incredibly important to have this purpose identified as using the “let’s have lunch” or “can I buy you a cup of coffee” are often considered veiled attempts and can be very off-putting. Most often, people are much more willing to meet with you if they know you have a specific purpose for meeting.
Once you’ve identified your purpose, contact the professionals you are interested by phone call or email. It’s important that you contact them individually versus sending out a group message.
Prepare for the 1 on 1
Once the other party has agreed to meet, do some research on them. Review their Linkedin profile, research their employer or place of business, and read publications or news articles related to their company or industry. The more you know about the other person the better. These can be great conversation starters.
In addition, you’ll want to develop some questions for your meeting. If you are meeting as a job seeker, these questions will most likely be focused on their current position. Some typical questions might be:
- How did you get into your current role? (If you didn’t ask this at the networking event)
- How would you describe your typical day?
- What parts of your job do like the best?
- What parts of your job challenge you?
- What do you think of your company?
- What skills are important to your job?
Also, create a loose agenda for the meeting. This could be as easy as the following three things:
- Get to know one another
- Going through your questions
- Allowing the other person to ask you questions
- Closing the meeting/identifying some next steps
The 1 on 1 Meeting
During the meeting, take some time to get to know the other individual. This may seem like trivial small talk, but it’s an essential part of the relationship building process. Ask them questions about their background and interests. Make sure that you also share some information about you.
After you’ve spent some time getting to know one another, move into your agenda. Refer to your list of questions, but don’t be afraid to go off script if the conversation naturally moves into a different direction that is valuable. However, if there are some questions on your list that are really important to you, make sure that you get the opportunity to ask them before the end of your meeting.
If possible, try to provide something of value to the other individual. This could be as simple as suggesting a book to read, or spending time talking about their business. It’s important to have an equitable agenda, where both parties are able to discuss topics that are important to them.
Make sure that you pay attention to time during the meeting. It can sometimes be helpful, at the beginning, to suggest to the other party to set an alarm if there is a hard stop to the end of the meeting. It can be very off putting for you and the other party to be constantly checking your watch. At the end of the meeting, make sure to thank the individual for their time and suggest meeting again sometime if it seems to be a good fit.
Step 7: The Follow-up
Thank you Note
After your meeting, send a thank you note. This could be done over email, but if you really want to make an impression, send a handwritten note or card. It’s a simple way to express gratitude for their time and to share with them what you learned from the conversation.
The Follow-up System
An important final step to your networking strategy is to create a system for following up with your networking contacts. Without a follow-up system, network connections can often fall on the wayside when the demands of day to day life come up.
A good follow-up system could be a reminder on a calendar or a task on your to do list. If you are going to be doing a lot of networking, it may be beneficial to use a contact management system like; Capsule, Pipedrive, or Contactually.
Decide how frequently you would like to follow-up with your contacts. I often try to connect with everyone in my network at least once every 90 days. Reasons for connecting with your contacts could include; sharing articles or book recommendations that the other individual finds interesting. You also may suggest events for them to attend or introduce them to another person from your network that would benefit them. If you and your networking partner really hit it off, perhaps you agree to meet regularly for lunch to discuss different topics. Or maybe you propose a mentoring relationship with them.
A Couple of Last Thoughts…
In addition to the steps mentioned above, I would like to leave you with the following thoughts…
- Great networkers “give” more than they “get:” While we all get into networking to build our own resources, it’s important to remember that giving is more powerful than getting. When you are generous with your time and expertise, you’ll notice that people are more than willing to help you in return. So keep your focus on how you can help others versus being concerned about what you’re getting out of the relationship.
- Be a connector: Connecting other people is a powerful way to build value with your networking partners. If you know two individuals that can benefit from meeting one another, find a way to connect them.
- Building a network takes time: As I mentioned in the beginning, building a network takes time. Don’t expect to have a huge number of contacts tomorrow. Instead, focus on building one relationship at a time.
Hopefully this blog mini-series has given you new ideas for networking with others. If you have other networking best practices, please include them in the comments below. Thanks!