When it comes to job searching, networking is a key factor in success. Ideally, you make initial connections with people through LinkedIn (maybe even after meeting them in-person or at some kind of group online event). This is a great start. To really capitalize on a networking relationship, having a networking meeting can be extremely beneficial.
What Are Networking Meetings?
So what exactly is a networking meeting? In the good old days, I remember hearing people talk about doing informational interviews. In short, if you were interested in having a certain job, or working with a certain company, you would contact and organization or individual and ask if they would meet you for an informational interview. Here you might learn about the company, what they are looking for, skills to acquire, and more. It also gave you the opportunity to start to build a relationship with a company--or a possible advocate in the person doling out said information.
Fast forward to now. These days, a networking meeting is typically you and another person deciding to spend a half hour-ish together, (with the pandemic, usually virtually using Zoom with cameras on kind of like if you were having coffee) and chatting a bit. If you're job searching, the typical focus will be on how you can make progress in your job search. Someone may to agree to a networking meeting because you have things in common (like field of work, background, professional goals), because they are generally committed to helping people when they are job searching, or because you have a mutual acquaintance to asked that person specifically to meet with you to help you out.
Networking Meeting = Informal Interview
Whenever you have an opportunity to meet one on one with someone, remember that you are taking part in a type of informal interview. Whenever I meet with someone who is in career transition, my goal is to help them figure out their next steps, offer advice (if they ask and are interested) and give them ideas on next steps they might take, including who else they should speak with next.
While I go in with this idea, the amount of help I'll provide also depends on how this networking meeting goes. Ideally, we have a good, productive conversation, and I think to myself, "I totally want to help this person more." If the meeting goes well, I'll refer them to specific resources that might benefit them (like a networking group they might want to join, a company to check out, someone to follow on LinkedIn) and even put in a good word for them to have a networking meeting with someone else who might get them closer to their goals. In addition, if it goes well, this is a person who I'll refer to others for openings, pass on job opportunities, and maybe even hire someday. If the meeting doesn't go well, I'll share a few resources, but may not be willing to help them as actively moving forward.
Remember, interaction you have with people will impact their desire to help you going forward.
Types of Networking Meetings
Here are a few common types of networking meetings:
Networking Meeting Best Practices
Here are a few best practices for networking meetings:
The True Power of Networking Meetings
When people talk about how they "networked" into a new job, typically that means that they leveraged their initial connections, to help make inroads with new connections, who helped them get closer to a new position. The holy grail of networking meetings is when the person you meet with agrees to introduce you to someone else they know who could help you, and that process repeats until you're talking to a hiring manager or influencer who can help you get an interview for a job. Having good networking meetings is a critical step in that process.
What Do You Think?
What are your job search networking tips and tricks? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is an adaptable learning & development leader, innovative instructional designer, and job search coach.