In the recent Thinc Iowa conference, Brad Feld made an incredibly generous offer to the audience. Brad offered that if you come to Boulder, he would connect you via email to key people in his area. Many people will make a similar, very generous offer. Rather than wasting these valuable connections, make sure you get the most from the meeting or electronic interaction. Here is a guide you can use to maximize your networking connections:
Before the Meeting / Dscussion:
- Set a goal. What do you want from the discussion. Be specific and be reasonable. It is unreasonable to ask for a job in a networking encounter. What is reasonable is to ask for feedback on a resume. While your goal remains finding the perfect job, your ask from the person your networking may be “Since you employ people similar to my skill set, would you please review my resume and provide me with feedback.”
- Research the person you are meeting with. You do not need to know their life history but it will be useful as a way to break the ice. For example if you were going to meet with me, you might look at my public LinkedIn profile and see that I wrote a book.
During the Meeting / Discussion:
- Thank them for meeting with you. Look them in the eye when you say it.
- Do not dive into the deep end. Open with something you know will engage them in a conversation (see above re:book)
- Pay close attention to what they say. Stay engaged in the conversation. If you are conversing via email or other non-interactive method, respond quickly.
- Do not interrupt the other person. Let them talk. That is why they are there in the first place.
- Take notes. Even if you will remember, writing things down shows you are interested and value their time and content.
- Have 3 to 6 specific questions ready to go. These need to be directly relevant to the original request.
- End by saying thank you. Review any actions you may have been asked to do.
- Ask them if there is anything you can do for them.
After the Meeting / Discussion :
- Send a thank you.
- Follow up on actions.
- Ask for any further thoughts.
- Reiterate your offer to do something for them.
As someone who is often asked to meet with someone I do not know, I can tell you the guidance above comes from my frustration with people who are not ready for a conversation. You can imagine that my motivation to go the extra mile for someone is much higher when they are organized, engaged, and have a goal.