Don’t waste their time

Madelyn shuddered at the word… Networking. She’d been out of a job for a couple of months and knew she needed to reach out and talk with people. But she’d convinced herself that online research was the way to go.

She didn’t want to waste other leaders’ time. “They’re so busy, they won’t have time to meet with me,” she said. I reminded Madelyn that she enjoys talking with people. “Yes, I love learning what people do and what they enjoy about it.” I suggested she change her mental image from the dreaded “Networking” to a focused “Conversation.” That fit better. She would do that.

The best way to find the next ideal role – at another company or within your current employer – is through “informational interviews” with people of interest to you. You get to know them and they get to know you. You’re not asking for a job, you’re looking for a good fit and you value their perspective.

Here are some definite DO’s so you don’t waste their time or yours.

-Prioritize what you want to ask and say. Do your homework about the person, company, industry. Don’t ask something easily findable online. It gives the impression you don’t plan thoroughly.

-Schedule 20 minutes and stick to it. People dread the infamous “20-minute meeting” that takes longer. Set your phone alarm for 16 minutes so you don’t go over. Respect their time.

-Plan a fruitful conversation with specific questions and points you’d like to make about your background. Don’t make it all about you. Listen. Take notes.

-Be informative and succinct. Practice what you’d like to say so it flows. Don’t bad mouth your former employer, boss, colleagues, no matter what happened. Ask for feedback on the approach you’re taking to finding your next role.

-Ask toward the end, “What can I do for you?” That impresses. Be sincere and do what you say you’ll do.

-Ask, “Who else would you recommend I talk with?” If you don’t know the person, ask for an introduction via email.

-Send a thank you – preferably handwritten. Sometimes email is fine. Gratitude is key.
Connecting directly plants seeds that may develop beyond your expectations. Every one of us has a network, and your chances are greater when yours expands. The best jobs often are found because of a connection with a friend of a friend of a friend.
People like to help. Be prepared. It pays.

P.S. Good news! Madelyn reached out to a well-connected neighbor who gave her a contact at a company that interested her. She learned from an informational interview that the company culture would be a good fit. This prepared her for an interview with a senior leader. She was thrilled to tell me last week she accepted a job there.
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