Professionals and executives network differently than most employees
When searching for a job, professional executives don’t limit meetings to only those within their sphere. What do they know that we don’t know? They are always meeting new people and are not hesitant to take meetings with people outside of their industry or connections. They look at these meetings as both a way to help and be helped.
If you are interested in meeting someone specific, asking someone you know for an email introduction is always a great first step. The email introduction is setting the first meeting up with purpose. The attitude is that this is “two people meeting over coffee” vs. “this is a candidate for your open position” or “you should hire this person”.
“Sally is interested in learning more about your company”
“Sally is interested in your VP position”
Write the introduction for your host so that all he/she has to do is cut and paste what you’ve written into their email – this is always a very appreciated move.
Professional networking best practices
- Respond promptly to email, phone calls, and texts. Don’t ask anyone to wait more than 12 hours for a response and in most cases; you should respond by end of the day, including weekends.
- The meeting place should be convenient for the person you are meeting.
- Arrive early, appropriately dressed (AKA business casual).
- At a minimum do a Google search and review their LinkedIn profile.
- Only forward a resume if it is requested. Remember, we want to learn about the hiring company before we throw our name into the hat.
- During a 30 to a 45-minute meeting, it wouldn’t be unusual for at least 3-7 minutes of chit-chat before getting down to ‘business’.
- You are both professionals so you will briefly describe your prior backgrounds at a high level. You don’t need much more than this, as you’ve already done your homework.
As the person that requested the meeting, we should have a few questions at the ready to start the conversation. You should be prepared to drive this conversation, not the other way around. Remember, our network is doing us a favor. This is professional networking.
Make yourself easy to network with
- “I read about this new [development] with your [product]. Can you tell me more?
- “I was checking out the backgrounds of the management team, and I was particularly interested in [person or area of the company]. Can you tell me more?”
- “Your careers page presented a fun company culture. Can you describe the culture of the company from your perspective?”
- “What do you like most about working at the company?”
Keep in mind that professional networking is a long-term game. Think of it like karma: What goes around comes around. Give to your network and it will give back. Take from your network and you won’t receive anything back.
Give back to your network
- Ask your network if you can help them with anything. What can you do to help them succeed? This is mutual respect and common courtesy.
- It’s always good to ask your network “to think about” anyone else that you should talk with. Because, “if nothing else, I love meeting more good people.”
- Send a timely thank you email the same day.
- Over time, you should send follow-up emails mentioning articles and a news update, eliciting commentary and fostering an ongoing relationship. Just enough to let your network know that they are still top of mind.
In a single word, “effort” is being shown. At the end of the day, we want to work with people we like. So does our network. It is a lot easier to help those who are helping themselves than trying to do all of the work for someone who isn’t putting forth any effort.
Key Takeaway: Professional networking is about showing common courtesy, respect, and making sure the relationship is a two-way street. This is the foundation for a long-term relationship. No one likes it when the only time we hear from someone is when they want something. Don’t be that person.
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