Successful networking requires answering one simple question « Courting Your Career

You reach out to a potential networking contact and ask if he would be willing to meet you for a cup of coffee. He accepts your invitation. In advance, you research his background on LinkedIn, print off a copy of your resume, and dust off your nicest business suit. You meet as planned and everything is going well until he asks “How can I help?”

Less than five minutes into a conversation with a person you’ve just met, you’re faced with a tricky multiple choice question. How will you respond?

A) I was hoping you could keep my resume on hand and let me know about any openings at your company.

B) I was hoping you would review a rough draft of my resume.

C) I was hoping you would share your perspective on how I might be able to best position my background for a possible career switch.

D) None of the above.

E) All of the above.

“A” usually never works. People are less likely to want to talk about openings at their company until they’ve had a chance to build some level of rapport with you. And that usually won’t happen within the first five minutes of your initial conversation. Even if they were to agree to let you know if they hear of any openings, there’s a pretty good chance it will fall off of their radar—they have their own jobs to worry about complete with deadlines and tons of emails to sift through each day. Not to mention the fact that asking someone you’ve just met to serve as your personal “career concierge” is just a fundamentally flawed strategy. You can however, ask if it would be okay for you to follow up in a few weeks to see if he’s heard of anything that might be a good fit with your background. That takes the burden off of them and puts you in charge of checking in.

“B” is tempting. After all, who wouldn’t like a free resume critique? But back to the career concierge comment above, most people you’ll be reaching out will likely have a lot on their plate. Although it might seem exciting to you, taking time out of their day to read your resume over probably won’t seem all that exciting to them. Have your resume on hand, and take them up on any offers to provide feedback, but don’t waste the opportunity to pique their brain first, before diving into a critique.

“C” is typically a great nonthreatening way to get them to open up, share their perspectives, and to start a conversation that will hopefully build rapport. This strategy is one you can use even if you actually want to work for their company. Hopefully, during the course of your initial or subsequent discussions, a light bulb will go off in their heads and they will offer to refer your resume or share insight on how best to position your background—information that can be invaluable if you’re looking to switch careers.

“D” could be scary. There are obviously a number of ways beyond those listed to respond, so if you didn’t pick any of the options from the list, what approach do you feel would work better?

“E” asks for too much too soon and would almost certainly be overwhelming for a first-time meeting with a potential networking contact. Instead of trying to cover all of your bases in your first meeting, a more effective approach would be to spread things out over 2-3 meetings.

Woody Allen once said “Showing up is 80% of success.” Although showing up is obviously important, your response to the “How can I help you” question will define the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of your networking efforts.

Posted via email from AndyWergedal