Here is the scenario – you are looking for a new job, maybe a change of industry, you’ve been really proactive and reached out to your contacts and got a ‘coffee meet’ lined up with someone who is happy to share their insights into the company with you. Fantastic. Contacts are everything, however approach them in the wrong way and they can also be barriers.
The key is to remember that there is no such thing as an informal interview or coffee meeting. As soon as you walk through the door and start talking they are sizing you up to see if you will ‘fit’ their team or organisation. They will decide whether they pass your details on and recommend you. With that in mind, I suggest you approach each informal meeting as if it is a full on interview in terms of your preparation and self-presentation. If you are actively job seeking and attending a networking event to meet people in the industry I also recommend you follow the below steps too.
All networking you do is an opportunity to sell your best self.
Saffron’s 4 Key steps to meaningful informal networking:
1. Research & Prep
Trying not to sound like a broken record but you need to do your research beforehand. Research in to the company and in to the person you are meeting, so you are well prepared and can have some questions up your sleeve to ask and common ground to build rapport. Think of conversation points both company related but also to build rapport with the person you are meeting.
2. Your Strategy
Know what you are looking for and what help you want from these contacts you are meeting as they will most likely ask you questions such as ‘How would you like me to help you?’ and ‘Which roles are you interested in within the company?’ Also be prepared for standard questions on why you are moving jobs and what your career ambitions are.
I always recommend the smarter the better for meeting contacts and attending networking events, especially if the other person is meeting you during working hours and they will be wearing a suit you want to match that. You want them to be seeing you in ‘professional mode’ if you are working in a more creative setting then match what they wear.
Take your CV to give them a copy and make sure you are punctual and shake their hand when meeting them.
4. The follow-up
Naturally hopefully the end of your conversation should be a ‘next step’ whether they are going to pass your CV to a colleague or have arranged a time for you to come in for a more formal interview. If no ‘next step’ is offered by them then ask ‘What would you recommend I do next to progress my interest in the company?’ I also recommend you follow-up after your meeting with a thank you email and if you are not already connected on LinkedIn make that connection.
It all seems pretty obvious when I break it down in to these steps doesn’t it? But do take some time to plan and prep for these meetings and attendance at networking events as they can be so useful to unlocking opportunities as well as strengthening your contact base. As I always recommend everything should be aligned to your professional career brand and practice makes perfect. If you would like to do a test-run or get some feedback on your approach then get in contact and I will be more than happy to help.
– Saffron Fidgett, Chief Career Ringmaster, firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Found this blog useful? Let us know how you used the 4 steps and if they worked for you. We love to hear your feedback and real-life stories of our tips and advice working.