Now that you’ve got the basics of networking down: created a LinkedIn profile, reached out to your organic network, started to find targeted contacts and have taken that ‘first bold step’ to reach out to them, it’s time to master the next steps! This article will walk you through what to do once you’ve successfully set up a meeting – this can be anything from an informal catch up to a formal meeting. Either way, these next five steps will help you create a good lasting impression.
1. Prepare Beforehand
The first step is preparation. This must be the most repeated advice I give across the board – whether it is negotiation tactics, interview tips… or in this case networking…
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
If you know what you’re talking about – you will never fail to make a good impression, because you will feel confident and convinced with how to approach any situation. Therefore, prior to a networking meeting, ensure that you are up to speed on the contact’s background, industry, and current affairs. It would also be worth planning out what you intend to find out about that person and the work that they do – so that you’re not flustered during the meeting. You will likely be a little nervous, so in order to ensure you don’t miss out any important questions – just prepare ahead of time. You can even make a quick note to refer to in the meeting.
2. Virtual Networking: A New Phenomenon
Before I jump to the next step, it is likely that given the current situation that you will be networking online – so a few things to keep in mind before you start the meeting.
- Run a tech-check to avoid connection issues at the time of the interview (as much as possible!). In fact, log-on about 15 minutes ahead of time to ensure the meeting link, audio and video are all working.
- This also gives you time to adjust your video feed to check for good lighting, clear background and position the camera/laptop/phone at a good angle.
- Check out how you look on camera – if an outfit change is needed, then do it! Usually, plain (non-patterns) colours look the best on video. Stripes, checks, etc can be a little distracting on-screen. And most importantly, please always wear formal bottoms (unless you’ve got a dress on, then you’re fine), and not your joggers or shorts. You never know when you might have to get up and move… and then, yikes!
- Take a few minutes to practice talking on video – even if it is to yourself. If you are someone who struggles with video calls, then I highly recommending taking some time beforehand to practice this repeatedly – either to yourself or with friends and family.
3. How to Make a Good First Impression
Now, whether you’re in-person or virtually meeting someone – you have to make an effort to create a good first impression. Often, before you say anything, your body language and energy creates the first impression – so make sure you are exuding positivity!
- Take a deep breath and sit straight – this will naturally give you confidence.
- Engage eye-contact and smile – this will make you approachable.
- Actively listen – this shows that you are serious about establishing and maintaining this relationship, and that you appreciate their time.
- Maintain this active engagement throughout the call – don’t get laid back or fidgety, this can be very off-putting!
- Don’t forget, that if you are in-person, then you must start off the greeting with a firm hand-shake. That’s the professional thing to do!
4. What To Talk About In A Meeting
A lot of people hate small talk at the beginning of the conversation, but personally, I love it. I think it would be super awkward to just jump into the deep-end and start hammering question after question. That initial small talk is like a brief “teething” period, where both parties get comfortable around each other – gauging each others’ energy and personality. So make sure you do that – ask about their day, or their weekend (whatever is appropriate). In the UK, it is mandatory to make a comment about the weather or the traffic! I’m not even sure anymore how else to start a meeting!!
Once you’ve established a little familiarity, thank them for their time – and just lightly kick off by outlining what you are hoping to achieve today. For example, “Thank you so much for your time today – in the next 10 minutes or so, I am hoping to find out a little more about what you do and what is it like working in the ‘x’ industry.” And then you can start off by saying, “I wanted to start off by asking you…” and then go for it!
This acronym from my business school workshops, specifically from Steve Dalton’s 2-hour Job Search, helped me a lot to provide a good starting point around structuring my questions. I started off using these as guidance, and then formulated more detailed/specific questions based on the research I had done in step 1!
T I A R A
TRENDS – in the industry/sector, that is impacting the business in a positive or negative way
INSIGHTS – into their role and the company, and what they love or hate about it
ASSIGNMENTS – and projects they are working on, or found interesting, or challenging!
RESOURCES – that will help you prepare yourself for a career in that field or that role
ADVICE – they can give you to get a head-start in your research, application and interviews
5. Follow Up After the Meeting
Don’t forget to follow up after the meeting to send a quick thank you note. This is one of the biggest networking mistakes you can make – and it’s very easy, because we get so absorbed and excited by all the information and insights we have gathered, that sometimes we forget to thank the person who gave it to us!
At the very least, a minimal and short ‘thank you’ is a must, but if you can continue to demonstrate active engagement by recalling the best piece of advice they gave you or additional insight you might have discovered post the call – then, yes absolutely do this!