When executives find themselves trying to get traction on a job search, they reach out to their networks and ask a few key people to grab coffee or lunch. But that’s the wrong approach.
Sorry, Starbucks, but this has to come to an end.
When executives with extensive experience and a broad network of acquaintances find themselves trying to get traction on a job search, the first thing they might do is reach out to those networks and ask a few key people to grab coffee or lunch.
What’s wrong with this? Here are several reasons:
1. There is no clear action
Who will set this up? Have you ever run into an acquaintance or colleague on the street or at work and found yourself saying, “Let’s get together”? That’s like saying, “I don’t really care if I see you again.”
How about if you start by saying, “Let’s get together and I’ll send you some possible times later today.” Then do it. Be the one to schedule the meeting.
2. Don’t pick a coffee shop or restaurant
If your job search is important, why would you want to meet in one of the noisiest venues in town? Plus, what if you can’t get a table due to all of the other job-seekers and students making it their office? Worse, the people you want to meet need to travel to the coffee shop, find parking, then travel back to their offices.
Instead, offer to meet in their offices. It will be quieter, they have their PC if they want to look up names of people for you, and they may give you more time since they don’t have to travel to their next meeting.
Naturally, if they say, “How about this coffee shop?” then agree.
3. There’s no agenda
State a compelling agenda for the meeting you want to have. You have a valuable connection with someone who may be able to help you. Make every touch-point in your job search your best. Add your proposed agenda to your request. This shows that you respect the person’s time and have thought about the most effective use of that time. It also demonstrates that you are organized.
When embarking on networking efforts, details matter. Here are some more tips for avoiding common networking errors:
- Be on time. If you are not in your contact’s lobby at least 15 minutes early, you are late. No excuse is good enough for being late — parking, traffic, last meeting ran late. Nope, doesn’t do it! If this meeting is close to a prior meeting, then you should have scheduled it at a later time.
- Bring pen and paper. Yes, call it old school; I don’t care. Don’t rely on a device since you lose eye contact trying to tap away. Laptops put up a terrible barrier, too.
- Take notes with that pen and paper. It’s shocking how many people put the pad in front of them, then kick back and try — no, pretend — to absorb the conversation in their brains. Plus, it shows respect for the other person’s time.
- Send an immediate thank-you note. The definition of networking is “building 2-way relationships for the long term.” Without a follow-up within 24 hours, you were “using” them, not networking with them.
- Keep up long-term contact. If you’re introduced to other people, you should keep your original contacts posted on those meetings and thank them again and again. Naturally, once you meet your networking goal, you thank every individual for help along your journey.
What other tragic networking mistakes have you seen? Please let me know, I’d like to help others avoid them.