During the past five years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of job seekers and others interested in networking. I value these interactions, and will almost always accept a networking request.
As I think back on those interactions, though, some individuals I met with were more memorable. I best remember those who did the following things:
- They had a purpose for meeting. Knowing why provided purpose and focus for our conversations. Of course, I never expected anyone to develop a detailed, comprehensive agenda before they requested an appointment. Just hearing them say, “I’m in a job search and want to brainstorm ideas” was a great starting point.
- They did not do all the talking. Occasionally, I’ve done all the listening, never having the opportunity to add any value to the conversation. In those rare cases, I just assumed the other person needed moral support as they unloaded their burdens in a stream of consciousness.
- They did not expect me to do all the talking. I never do well when the onus is left entirely upon me to do all the talking. I’ll do what I can to make a conversation lively, but let’s not forget that one hand clapping makes no sound.
- They did a little research before we met. I always Googled the names of individuals I’d be meeting with. I’ve been surprised when the other person comes into our meeting without having done likewise.
- They asked good questions. I’m always intrigued by people who have more answers than questions. The best networks have an innate curiosity, and they ask good questions because they have done their research beforehand, and also because they are fully engaged in present as our conversation unfolds.
- They knew what they needed. I always appreciate it when someone can answer my question, “So, how can I help you?” Extra credit goes to those who answer the question before it’s asked.
- They were not overly needy. Every now and then, I’ve encountered someone who needed so much help that I had no idea where to begin. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how. Our time would have been better spent if they had prioritized three or four specific things we could work on together.
- They were appreciative. Almost everyone sent me a follow up email. The ones who really stood out, though were those followed up with a handwritten note. Fewer than a handful never had any more contact with me after we met, after several weeks I disconnected with them on LinkedIn. After all, they are not the type of people I want in my professional network.
- They looked for ways to add value. I never give so I can receive. Yet I’m pleasantly surprised when a networker does something to add unexpected value to our evolving relationship. Value is never materialistic. Rather, it can be something intangible such as introducing me to another person. It can be as simple as requesting that we connect on social media. Or it can be forwarding me a link to an article about something we talked about.
- They stayed in touch. Weeks or months after I’ve met with someone, I’m impressed when I receive an email update. Or perhaps they’ll stay in touch by making a comment on Facebook that reminds me that they’re still out there. Staying connected does not have to be anything extraordinary.
I always see networking as an opportunity to make a new friend, to add someone to my professional network or to expand my thinking. I gain so much by seeing the world from the vantage point of a fellow traveler along life’s meandering journey.