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Asked by Alina on October 2, 2014

What should I expect from a networking meeting? I have a few set up with my parent's colleagues and friends, so I understand these people are doing them a favor by meeting with me (I think my parents want me out of the house!). Where should I set my expectations? A job at the end of these meetings? Leads for possible openings? Practice interview? I don't want to get my hopes up and plan to apply to some positions while I'm doing these networking meetings. Thanks.

Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on October 2, 2014

What should you expect from a networking event? Just about anything. I would worry less about the outcome of the event and more about the preparation for such an event. It is through your preparation and diligence that will absolutely increase your ability to turn a possible network meeting into a potential opportunity or long term industry contact. All too often do individuals miss out on an opportunity to make an impression at such an event.

First of all, do your homework. If you can find out where they work or what industry they are in, you should do a ton of research on that company and/or industry (if available, read annual financial report). Visit the company website and see if there are any opportunities that match your interests and you are qualified based on the required qualifications for the role. If you see any of interest, apply to them and bring the details of the role to the meeting. I would not recommend leading into your conversation that you have applied to positions though.

You should start the conversation out with friendly discussions and a big thank you for the meeting. More than likely, the person you are meeting will initiate the discussion toward more networking and business related topics. They know why they are meeting with you, and it is good to allow them to control the conversation at first. Of course, you may have limited time and need to work toward taking a bit of control of the conversation to accomplish a few goals. Those goals are the following:

1) Establish rapport
2) Share some of your knowledge about the company and / or industry
3) Provide details about any positions you have applied

If you go into the meeting with these three goals, you will absolutely increase your chances of potential follow up and possible opportunities. Your parents are leveraging their professional contacts and friends who are all probably very busy. By learning about the industries and companies they are associated with, you are showing initiative and interest. If they do not have a specific opportunity they want to discuss with you, then you can share the position information for any roles you have interest and have applied. By sharing that information with them, they will see that you are organized and passionate about exploring new opportunities. Plus, most individuals including hiring managers and recruitment professionals rarely know all the open opportunities within the organizations they support. When you apply to positions, you make it easier on them to help track down feedback for you.

The last thing I would recommend is to take some time to research common interview questions and behavioral based interviews. You can find a ton of great information on the internet about both. Use that information to help you practice and build your interviewing skills because a networking meeting can quickly turn into a job interview.

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Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on October 3, 2014

Fantastic question! I would go into these types of networking meetings with a few clear objectives:

1) Learning in-depth info about the person: e.g. their current role, their career path, their academic background, etc. (you should already have done some homework via their company site and LinkedIn, to get an idea of who they are and what they are all about)

2) Receiving career-related advice from the person: e.g. suggestions regarding where and how best to network for this field, recommended places to volunteer, additional people to connect with, books or research to explore, events to attend, ongoing education to pursue, associations to join, etc.

3) Demonstrating your ambition, passion, and potential: e.g. your hard skills, your soft skills, how you can leverage your experience and academic qualifications together, what excites you, and your ability to be flexible, reliable, and independent. Showcase what will be most relevant to their interests, and what will most clearly relate to their industry.

*Caveats: I would not recommend going into a meeting like this and directly asking for a job up front. I would instead start by thanking the person profusely for their valuable time, and their expertise. Make sure they know you really appreciate this opportunity, and that you are prepared. Understand exactly how much time they have set aside for you, and keep to this time frame. Be respectful if they tell you they have a hard-stop after 60 minutes, for example.

Don’t be afraid to ask if their company is hiring, or if they have an internship program, but do so a little ways into the conversation, after you both have had a chance to get to know one another. The purpose of this meeting is to not only find out if they may have a job for you, but more importantly, to begin to develop your professional circles. This meeting may lead you to other decision-makers and hiring teams, even if this person in particular does not have something immediately available.



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Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., on October 7, 2014

Go expecting nothing to be given to you and fully expecting that you will make the most of the opportunity. You have a great advantage that you may have the ability to gather insights on those individuals you are meeting - unlike many career fairs. Prepare good questions, plan to engage each of them both personally and professionally and understand their line of business.  You can research their organizations, open positions, and decide if you are going to use the time to learn more about their profession, gather professional advice, or attempt to make inroads as a potential candidate for the organization.

Many job seekers would kill for an opportunity like this, so however you do it, come prepared and be appreciative of the time you are given.

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Answered by Nell, Hiring Expert at Pitney Bowes, on October 9, 2014

Networking meetings are very tricky! I can understand your confusion, because of the ambiguity around them. I have some thoughts for you on how to handle networking meetings.
1) Treat them like an interview in the sense that you want to present your best self to them. They may have a job opening or know someone who has a job opening.
2) Do not dismiss ideas or positions that they recommend for you. Even if you don’t want to work at that company, it could come across rude if you immediately dismiss them after this person has taken the time to network with you.
3) Do not expect them to lead to a job, and do not get aggressive with the person who networks with you regarding opportunities.
4) Go in with the expectation to gain a friend or mentor. It can also lead to practice discussing your strengths and weaknesses. It is also a great opportunity to get career advice.
5) Use these meetings to build your professional network, add each person you meet with on linkedIn.
6) Send a thank you note to each person that you meet with and follow-up with them occasionally to keep the relationship there. You never know what may happen in the future.
Make sure to enjoy these meetings and get to know each person to the best of your ability! I wish you luck in your meetings!
Nell

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