What Do You Say at a Networking Meeting? |
By John Lundberg | director of events at RecruitMilitary and a former gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps |
Published in the January/February 2012 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Much has been written regarding the need for job seekers to get the word out via their networks of relatives, friends, acquaintances, and school, work, and business contacts. In many cases, the advice doesn’t go much further than that. But I have some further advice: Set up 20-minute, face-to-face meetings with those local and regional business contacts who don’t know you very well. Then proceed as follows:
Make the most of the time allotted for your meeting by being prepared. Research the company where your contact works, the industry in which the company operates, and the position of the contact.
As with most professional meetings, yours will have three phases: the opening, the body, and the closing. The opening will consist of a professional greeting, an expression of appreciation, small talk, and a statement of purpose of the meeting.
In your opening, be sure to confirm your contact’s expectations about how long the meeting will last. Doing this will help your contact focus on your time together and free him or her from worrying about the time. If you haven’t seen the contact in some time, you may want to catch up on what’s been happening with him/her. Do that before talking about yourself and your job search.
In the body of the meeting, update your contact on what’s been happening with you. Make a personal statement lasting no longer than about a minute. Your relationship with the contact will determine what to say.
Your personal statement is your 60-second commercial. It defines who you are professionally, what you have done, and what you have to offer in your next career move. Define your professional experience and strengths, and state your objective in finding a new job.
Once you have created your personal statement, practice saying it. It should sound natural, and it should be concise and well-structured manner. And it must be consistent with your resume.
In fact, your personal statement should tell the same story as your resume, but more vividly manner. For example:
“I am a medical equipment sales representative with five years of experience in the industry. Previously, I worked for a company that sells pharmaceuticals for animals. In my current job, I represent a company that has a complete line of biomedical testing products. I enjoy this line of work because it allows me to use both my background in biology and my interpersonal and problem-solving skills. For the past two years, I have been traveling coast-to-coast. While I have enjoyed a great deal of success, I am currently exploring the possibility of making a job change in order to have a more regional territory.
Save the bulk of the time for questioning your contact about his/her job or industry. Here are some sample questions:
• What is your job like?
• What is a typical day/year like?
• What skills or personal attributes does one need to possess to succeed in this field?
• How did you break into the field?
• What have been your greatest challenges?
• What is a typical career path in this field?
• What would you recommend someone do to become a more attractive applicant?
• What trends do you see developing?
• What do you like best/least about your job?
• What is the leadership style at your company?
• Could you tell me about the corporate culture at your company?
• What do you see in terms of hiring trends for this field in the next three to six months?
This phase should take the greatest amount of time in your meeting and should help lay the foundation for asking the contact for a referral.
When you have completed your information gathering, you will move into the closing phase of the networking meeting. This is the time for you to ask for a referral. Here is some sample verbiage:
• If you were in my position, who would you recommend that I speak with in your company or within the industry?
• Do you know of anyone that I could talk with who could help with my job search?
• Do you mind that I mention to _______ that you gave me his/her name? Would you prefer to contact him/her before I do?
Don’t be afraid to ask for this kind of help. If you have done a good job of laying the groundwork and exchanging information, your contact will be more than happy to provide you with a contact name.
At the end of the meeting, thank the contact for his/her time, and indicate that you will keep the contact informed regarding your job search. Within 24 hours, send follow-up correspondence thanking your contact for the time and assistance he or she has provided. Also be sure to follow-up professionally with any referrals your contact passes your way.