by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
The Value of Professional Networking
When it comes to job searching, professional networking is a critical component of success. Ideally, you make initial connections with people through LinkedIn (maybe even after meeting them in person or at an online group event). While this is a great start, there is value in building relationships beyond that initial connection. A 1:1 meeting can significantly strengthen a networking relationship and help you learn how you and your new connection can help one another succeed.
About 1:1 Networking Meetings
So what exactly is a networking meeting? Back in the day, I remember hearing people talk about doing "informational interviews." In short, if you were interested in having a particular job or working with a specific company, you would contact an organization or individual and ask if they would meet you for an informational interview. In this 1:1 meeting, which could take place via phone or in person, you might learn about the company, what they are looking for, skills to acquire, and more. It also allowed you to start to build a relationship with a company--or a possible advocate in the person doling out said information.
Fast forward to now. Today, a networking meeting is typically between you and another person deciding to spend a half hour-ish together. This meeting, sometimes called a coffee chat, could happen virtually via Zoom or in person, often over coffee.
If you're job searching, the typical focus will be on how to progress in your job search. Someone may agree to a networking meeting because you have things in common (like a 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 ask that person 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 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 further steps they might take, including who 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 REALLY 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 I may not be willing to help them as actively moving forward.
Remember, any interaction you have with people will impact their desire to help you in the future.
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 they leveraged their initial connections to help make inroads with new contacts, 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. 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.
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7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.