Networking Conversations Part Two: Steering the Encounter

Networking Conversations Part Two: Steering the Encounter

By now we all realize how important networking conversations are in a successful job search.  For some, getting over the awkwardness and creating a great dialog can feel challenging. The good news is that there are ways to make networking go smoothly.  In part one, we talked about getting the conversation started. Today, moving it along.

To move into phase two of a networking conversation, you need to define your goals for the conversation. You may not know when you begin the conversation what you hope to get out of it, but as you listen you may begin to think:

  1. This person (or his or her company) has needs that I am qualified to fill
  2. I know someone who could help this person, or would be a great contact for him or her
  3. This person has connections that would be helpful for me
  4. This person has knowledge and insights I would like to tap into

For each of these four possibilities, craft a different approach. Your approach is how you connect what you are learning about the other person with your own world. Your approach will also include an introduction of your brand. You will begin to share your value and capabilities in the work world.

Scenario 1 – Let’s say you hit pay dirt and discover this person (or this person’s company) has needs that actually match your qualifications and past successes. Your temptation is going to be to shout “Hire me!” But instead you might say:

“It sounds like (fill in blank) is a real problem for you. My background is in this area and I love tackling these kinds of problems. When I was at (fill in blank), I helped them solve a similar problem by (fill in blank).”

“I would love to hear more about that project and see if there is a way my expertise in (fill in blank) can help you with it. My background is in (fill in blank) and I’ve successfully (fill in blank) in the past.”

In each of the sentences above you:

  1. Acknowledge what you were hearing
  2. Introduce your expertise and brand
  3. Share a success story that relates to the issue your contact is dealing with
  4. Open the door to helping
  5. Offer appropriate basic level of solutions based on what has been shared with you

Scenario 2 – Connecting people with mutual interests is an important and satisfying part of networking. So if you realize you can make that connection, simply offer. For example:

“I worked with someone who is a real expert in that area. Can I put you two in touch?”

Scenario 3 – But what if you are looking for a connection and feel the other person can help? At this point, you should feel confident in asking. Examples:

“I would love to learn more about (fill in blank). Do you know of someone I can talk to?”

“I’ve been trying to connect with someone in that field. Is it possible you could introduce me?”

“That is really my area of expertise. Who would I talk to in order to see if my skills could be of use?”

Scenario 4 – Finally, if the person you are talking with has insights or expertise you would like to tap into, simply look for a way to continue the conversation. For example:

“I don’t want to take all your time but I am really interested in learning more. Can we get together for coffee next week?”

“Your field (or area of expertise, or job) is of great interest to me. Can I take you out to lunch and pick your brain?”

Now you’ve made your “ask”. You’ve learned about the needs and expertise of the other person and introduced him or her to your brand and to your need. In the next part, we’ll talk about how to wrap up networking conversations in a way that keeps the conversation going.


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