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About 60% of professionals worldwide believe that online interactions with their network can lead to possible job opportunities. However, many do not take the first step due to hesitation and anxiety about interacting with new people. A possible solution to tackle this is to approach professional networking strategically, as it can take you a step closer to your dream role.
In our other articles on professional networking, we have discussed how to identify key networking opportunities and reach out to your target audience. In this article, we will help you with the next step which is your networking meeting. Let’s have a look at some key points that you should discuss with your target audience in the meeting along with a few tips to approach the meeting confidently.
Your target professionals would want to know the reason behind the meeting. We suggest giving them a high-level idea before the meeting and spending a few minutes during the call explaining the reason in detail. This will set the right expectations for them and will steer the flow of the meeting in the required direction. Make sure to use the right tone reflecting a ‘request’ and not a ‘demand’.
2. Express interest in their work
You will most probably be speaking with a complete stranger during this meeting. This is someone who doesn’t have an idea of your background yet is willing to speak with you. Their resources could prove to be of high importance to you. Thus, it is essential to demonstrate your interest in knowing them and create a first good impression.
To do this, we suggest conducting background research on your target audience. This would mean exploring their LinkedIn profile and the company website’s ‘about us’ or ‘team’ page. You may also Google their name to check any other relevant information available in the public eye. We highly recommend you keep this professional and not delve into any personal information.
3. Tell them about your background
While they would be glad to know that you are interested in knowing about them and their work, they would want to know about you too. Spend some time identifying important aspects related to your professional background. This will help you discuss essential points avoiding all irrelevant, time-consuming conversations. Some of the things that you can discuss are:
- Your current role
- Your target next step
- Your achievements (very briefly, giving them a glimpse of your capabilities)
4. Express your intent to help them
Professional networking is a two-way street. If you reach out to someone with the hope to receive some help, ensure that you are open to helping them too. However, you may not always have the capacity or resources to help the other party. In such a case, even a simple message conveying that you are open to helping in any manner may do wonders for you.
Professional networking is all about relationships. The more you invest yourself in the right relationships, the higher are the chances of receiving benefits from them. Some of the things that you can say are:
“Please let me know if I can connect you with someone from my network”
“I would be more than happy to help you with anything I can”
Whether they need your help or not, they would be happy to hear your kind words.
5. Agree on the next steps
While the process of networking may finish with your meeting, you will reap benefits only if you work towards achieving your goals. You can request suggestions or advice from these professionals. Keeping in mind that they are industry experts or professionals with a high level of subject-related knowledge, they will be able to guide you with some practical follow-up steps. Keep notes of these and close your meeting on a good note. Thank them and let them know that the meeting was informative and value-adding.
Things to remember
A few things to remember for your meeting are:
1. Keep a watch on the clock
Make sure you do not spend too much time introducing yourself or talking out of context. Keep a check on time and make sure all relevant topics are covered. We suggest making a list of things to discuss before the meeting. This will help you remember everything important and worth discussing. Also, be respectful of their time. Start your call on time and start winding it down 5 minutes before the closing time. If it is a face-to-face meeting, follow a similar procedure and make sure to arrive on time.
2. Tone of voice
Even when your intention is to receive some sort of help from your target audience, you may want to keep it indirect and smooth. Be honest about your thoughts but adopt a humble and grateful tone of voice. We strongly suggest being mindful of your expectations. Even when they express they can’t help you, be accepting and respectful.
3. Dress smart
While it is said to not judge a book by its cover, one’s dress and appearance often create first impressions. Thus, dress smart and professional. Don’t let them think that you were not serious about the meeting or did not put in enough effort.
4. Ask questions
Make sure you have relevant questions prepared for your meeting. This demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in gaining something from the meeting. Make a list of questions and keep it on the side for reference. If it is a face-to-face meeting, try and remember some of the important questions but avoid looking at any papers. Don’t force questions in your conversations and allow them to flow naturally.
5. Express gratitude
Be thankful! Whether this meeting introduces you to any real opportunities or not, thank them for agreeing to meet with you. Follow up your meeting with a thank you message and let them know that it was a good experience for you.
If you have had the opportunity to speak with professionals from your target industry, consider it to be a huge opportunity and make the most of it. Be prepared and discuss relevant points in the meeting. Respect their time and views and work on the follow-up steps to make sure you attain your goals. If you believe you need a little more help to prepare for such meetings, reach out to our experts and we will help you through the process.