Newly “in transition” folks often seem to think that networking is something they need to do until they find a new corporate role. In my world as partner in B2B CFO®, I view networking as a way to stay connected with the marketplace, potential customers and people who are integral to my success.
Certainly networking is the best way to land your next role but it is NOT an event or something you do until the next role comes along. Just as keeping your LinkedIn page and resume up-to-date, networking is important to stay in touch.
For many, networking is a new experience and one they find a bit awkward initiating. Begin in a safe arena with your circle of business associates and friends who you can contact to schedule a lunch, breakfast meeting or a cup of coffee. Be respectful of their schedule, suggesting a time and place that will be convenient for the other party.
Take some time to prep for the meeting, review their LinkedIn profile looking for connections to common interests, schools, or organizations. Look to see if there are other items online about them. Think about what you would like to learn about the person. A wise boss once suggested “if you can only ask the person one question, what is the most important thing you wish to know”.
At the meeting, spend your time genuinely listening and getting to know the person better. Listening is allowing the other person to talk. Genuinely listening is not thinking of your response as they speak. Ask follow-up questions. If you can, work your questions into the conversation but despite your preparation, be prepared to forgo your prepared questions, allowing the conversation to flow. Remember the most important thing is to build a stronger bond with the person, not to get your questions answered. Those questions are important but they can wait until a later meeting.
Respect their time and keep the meeting to an hour or less. Thank them for getting together and offer to meet again. As soon as you can jot down your thoughts about the meeting and any follow-up items you committed to do. Deliver on any commitments you made. Save these notes and refer to them the next time you get together. Plan your next get together and make a reminder for yourself to send out an invitation a week or so before that time.
Remember most people would like to help, but they don’t know how. An awareness of your need, your target firms and a better understanding of your experience will bring you to mind as opportunities hit their radar.
Once you are back in the workforce, don’t shelve networking. Make the time to continue to meet with appropriate people and use your experience to help others going through a transition.