You’ve reached out to a member of your network, asking them to meet you for coffee or dinner, and they’ve said yes. Now what? Don’t panic! We have five simple tips for networking with a contact that will help you get what you need and keep the meeting productive and positive. Here’s what you need to do to avoid mistakes and network effectively one-on-one with recruiters, business contacts, mentors, or potential referrals:
- Treat it like a job interview. Chances are, you’ll be asking this person to give you advice, a referral, or connect you with someone significant. Take this meeting seriously, and treat your contact with respect. Show up on time, dress well, bring a notebook, and have your questions or request ready.
- Introduce yourself. Send them a copy of your resume ahead of time or at least bring it with you. Practice your elevator speech so you can give them a brief overview of who you are and what you do.
- Make it easy for them. Have your “ask” prepared, and make sure it’s easy. Looking for leads? Be specific about what you need. Need a referral? Be prepared to show and tell why you’re a great fit for their organization. Want brainstorming help? Come ready with some leading questions to get the ball rolling. Please don’t ask your contact to email you with a recap of your entire meeting, expect them to do your research for you, or take too much of their time. You’re asking for a gift, so make it painless to give!
- Stay positive. No matter how difficult the job search or how bitter you feel toward your last employer, don’t let it color this meeting. Keep your conversation upbeat, speak carefully about your other contacts, and your contact is much more likely to walk away with a positive impression of you!
- Use good business etiquette. Thank them for their time, respect their limits, offer to purchase the coffee or meal, and write a thank you note when you get home. An email thank-you is perfectly appropriate, but there’s never a wrong time for a handwritten note.