There’s no doubt networking can be a bit awkward.
If you had to get to the point in your meetings and conversations, most of the time it would sound something like, “You are where I want to be, now please tell me how to get there.” Of course, if we were this straightforward and blunt, it would get us nowhere.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be timid and beat around the bush too much. This also gets us nowhere and leaves us feeling like we missed out on big opportunities.
This is very much the case with informational interviews. You meet with someone who may be a stranger or someone you only know through someone else and talk about your career and how they can be of assistance in some way.
To make sure you are neither too timid nor too narrow-minded, here are a few ways you can make the most of these informational meetings.
The person you’re meeting with is probably intelligent, but they can’t read your mind. They probably understand the broad picture of the direction you are looking to go, but their knowing the details is on you.
Consider what you want out of the meeting. Is there a particular role you want or a certain company you want to work for? Do you want to know what steps have to be taken to get there? Having these questions ready beforehand will help shape the conversation the way you intend it and help you get the most out of the meeting.
Ask “Human” Questions
It’s important to know a person’s background before meeting with them, but you can find this out anywhere these days. Before the meeting, look up the person on LinkedIn to get a better understanding of their background. This way you can ask better questions that you can’t learn over the internet.
Write these questions down to bring to the meeting. Here are a few example of “human” questions:
What made you choose this field? This job?
What is one thing you wish you could have done differently?
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started out?
What skills are most important in your experience? How can I go about acquiring these?
Don’t Be Selfish
Always remember that this person is going out of his way to help you. This means be respectful of his time and make sure you are not doing all the talking. As a rule of thumb, you should speak 25-30 percent of the time. This doesn’t mean ask your questions and nothing else. Let them do most of the talking but make sure it is conversational.
Don’t just simply send them a thank you email and have that be the end of your professional relationship with the person. You should, of course, thank them afterwards but feel free to follow up and stay connected after your meeting.
You can do this by sharing relevant articles you come across and also keeping them in the loop with your job search and professional progress. Don’t over do it, of course. You don’t want to be flooding their inbox, but checking in now and again will go a long way in maintaining your connection.