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7 Steps To Better Networking

Smiling man with a coffee cup in a virtual meeting.


Starting a new job search is a daunting process – one that gets easier with networking.  Networking is kind of like hunting for treasure – but instead of a chest of gold and jewels, you are looking for a great job that meets your needs financially and professionally.  Talking to the right people can point you in the right direction.  The problem is you won't often know who the right people are until you talk to them.  Most people you talk to won’t lead you directly to a new job but could lead you to someone else who can.  Sooner or later, X-marks the spot, so to speak.


Ancient coins on potshards.

If you have read my blog before, I often talk about ways to gain more control as a job seeker.  Being prepared to meet a new network connection is something you can be in total control over.  “Doing your homework” before you meet with someone will improve your chances of making the meeting productive, generate leads your new network connection might not have thought of, and increase the likelihood they will risk their professional reputation to recommend someone they just met to someone else in their network.  You never know who can lead you to your dream job.  So it is in your best interest to prepare for each networking meeting as if that person will be the one. 

Here are the 7 steps you can take to be prepared for a networking meeting:

1.       Look them up on LinkedIn.  Most professionals have a LinkedIn profile – and it can tell you a ton of information about the person.  Learn as much as you can.  From where they went to school to the stops in their career, to who is in their network you might also know.  Feel free to add them to your LinkedIn network before the meeting as well, to give them an opportunity to look at your LinkedIn profile (which is squared away, since you are looking for a job) before the meeting.  Make sure you add a note when you ask to connect, something simple like “I am looking forward to meeting with you on Friday" or "Art Vandelay speaks highly of you and recommended we connect."  You are trying to find any kind of personal connection, whether that’s being from the same school, knowing a lot of the same people, or having a shared interest.  This will increase your chances of a warm connection.

2.       Look up their company, know what they do, and how the company makes money.  Get on their webpage and poke around.  Look up any job openings they have posted (check LinkedIn and job boards too) and if there are any that are a match for your skill-set, apply to them.  It can make it easier for a new network connection to reach out to HR and say “Hey, I just met a great person and they said they have applied to X job – can you take a look at (YOUR NAME)’s application?”  It could get you out of the dreaded applicant tracking system and into an interview. 

3.       Try to make a connection to what you are skilled at doing and how you can help the person you are meeting with or their company.  In our example, you can talk through your experience and ability to build relationships with customers, which helps grow additional sales might be a good topic of interest to Justine.  Even if there are not any jobs currently open that match your skills and experience, with the right “sales pitch” sometimes a job can be created for you, if the value you can bring is compelling enough.  You’d be surprised how when the solution to a nagging problem that has not been addressed yet presents itself how quickly things can move in your favor.  You then get to skip the line in the hiring process, in many instances.

4.       Be specific in your ask.  If someone is making time to meet with you, especially with no obvious benefit to them, make it easy and memorable for them to help you.  Instead of “Can you help me find a job?” it should be more specific: “I’m looking for a financial analyst role with a late-stage startup in the Southeast.  I see on LinkedIn that you are connected to several CFO’s in Charlotte.  Are there any you could recommend me to?”

5.       Execute well.  Show up to a call, Zoom, or coffee meeting, on time and prepared.  If in person, be on time.  Bring a physical copy of your resume.  Dress professionally, even if on a video call.  If meeting for coffee or a meal, offer to pay the tab.  If any action items come up, like “Email me your resume” make sure you follow up in a timely manner, not weeks later.  You have a brief window to show how professional you can be – and all of these details add up.  Asking someone to stake their professional reputation on the line for someone they just met is a big ask, and they will feel better about it if you show them you won’t embarrass them.

6.       Ask for more connections.  It’s surprising how few people wind up a networking meeting without asking “Is there anyone else you recommend I connect with?”  Maybe that person you just met doesn’t have any job leads for you but knows someone who does.  If every networking meeting yields two other people to connect with, your networking can get exponentially more effective (literally: 1 leads to two, two to four, four to eight, eight to sixteen, etc.)

7.       Lastly, make sure you follow up after a networking meeting.  Within 24 hours, send a thank-you note via email/LinkedIn or text, whichever makes the most sense for their time, even if there was no immediate benefit to you.  Then add them to your follow-up list – to update them on your job search every few weeks.  They might not have any job openings right now, but next month they might...and you’ll still be top of mind. When you do land a new role, let them know, thank them for any help they offered, and offer to return the favor someday.


Networking your way to a new job can take time – but it gives you a chance to increase your professional network outside your traditional circles.  So approach every interaction with gratitude, even it doesn’t immediately lead anywhere.  That person is giving their time, expertise, or advice, and that is a gift.  Don’t let your desperation or determination to find a job blind you to that.  You might meet some cool and generous people.  So, maybe the real treasure is the friends you meet along the way. 

Good hunting.

-          Ed


If this was forwarded to you, here’s a little about me:

Ed Voelsing is a former US Navy Officer, Veteran advocate, and career executive recruiter working to match exceptional talent to the best organizations in the US.  He is the owner of The Rivet Group, a recruiting firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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