Having or Setting Realistic Expectations
Networking is typically the best way to learn about new opportunities, whether it is work related or otherwise. Being open and available to meet new contacts is a large part of what it takes to ensure those opportunities occur, although they may be unplanned or unexpected. In order to capitalize on every encounter, it is important to map out a plan, be clear about your expectations in advance, and prepare questions that will actually produce helpful and appropriate information. If you are not getting the results you had hoped for by attending events or “hanging out” with friends, then perhaps your preparation for those meetings needs a little attention. The following are some basic elements that are likely to result in more fruitful encounters.
Have a clear goal. If you are going into conversation or meetings with people with the idea that they will hit on a solution for you or read your mind, you are probably not coming away with much. Setting clear goals, then identifying the objectives needed to achieve those goals, will provide you with much clearer information to help you determine what you actually need to know or learn from someone. Along those same lines, using Linked in or other social networking sites with intent beyond connecting to as many people as possible, is much more likely to produce favorable results. The connection alone won’t make things happen for you. Know what you need to learn and be clear about why you request an introduction to a new contact.
Know what you don’t know. While that sounds like a contradiction, it isn’t really. If you set out to identify a solution without thinking through what it might require, then you will be all over the map. You can pot shot potential options or perhaps miss the mark entirely. By developing target companies (or customers or projects, for that matter) and identifying what you would need to know to be able to have a successful exchange with them, (i.e, receive an offer of employment, or to sell a product or service), then it is easier to craft questions that will actually help you develop a strategy for approaching them.
Strategize. Developing a strategy and working a carefully thought out plan typically produces a better outcome than wishing and hoping. Sure, miracles can happen. Great timing can look like a miracle. But if you haven’t had your miracle happen yet, then maybe it is time to develop a plan to get where you want to be, before too much more time goes by. Information is power, and the more you know about your target, the more you will know about how to position yourself to get where you want to be. Just ‘knowing’ someone or ‘being acquainted with’ someone isn’t likely to turn into something. What do they need to know about you? What do you need to know about them or the target to ensure that what they know about you is appropriate and relevant to further your efforts?
Set the stage. Introduce yourself with a prepared statement that gives them enough information to act on without putting them to sleep. Memorize it. Know what you need to say, in words that exactly relate what you would want someone to remember. Too much info will result in them forgetting most of what you said. Funny, cute and clever may get someone’s attention, but unless they have more time to learn the rest, they won’t know what they need to remember about you that can help you.
Prepare thoughtful questions. Take the time to prepare thoughtful questions of the people you encounter. Practice them enough to ensure they are on the tip of your tongue, so that you are not blurting out “do you know of any openings” or “can you refer a customer to me” before the person even knows anything about you.
Follow up. Meeting new people, but dropping the ball by failing to follow up can end up wasting everyone’s time and energy. Make sure you take the time to follow up after every meeting or conversation in a professional and timely way, even if it was a casual or social event. Leaving a lasting impression through genuine interest and responsiveness is a good way to develop productive relationships.
What successes have you had with new contacts?