August 18, 2010
How to turn informational meetings into opportunities
In my last post, I suggested that you use flattery to get the attention of someone who might be useful in your job search. Once you've gotten this person to meet with you, you need to know how to turn your informational meeting into an opportunity. While you genuinely have to deliver on your promise to keep the meeting short and ask questions about the person's career, accomplishments and anything else that would make him or her feel significant, there is no reason you can't use this time to secure a second meeting and build a sustainable relationship.
Remember, you've worked hard to secure this meeting and we want to make sure you walk away with a potential relationship, not another hour lost.
In order to build a relationship with someone, you have to find a need that person is looking to fill and then you must position yourself as the solution. You can provide that solution in the form of contacts and connections, advice, expertise, motivation, time, etc.
One mistake I've seen job seekers make is offering to be a resource without understanding the person's needs in advance. Say you're really good at social media and you propose that you can build this person's Facebook profile. If that's not what your contact cares about, while the gesture is nice, it's usually not effective and will not result in a long-term relationship.
Detecting needs -- especially needs that someone really cares about -- is as much art as it is skill. You need great listening skills, but the art is about reading between the lines. It's paying attention to those little details the person might reference throughout the conversation. When you pick up on these, you need to ask great questions such as, "What are you working on these days?", "What challenges are you currently facing in regards to ...?" and "What's your next step in ...?"
Once you detect a need, position yourself as a possible resource by saying something along the lines of, "That's my area of interest," or, "I have a strong background in ..." and "I'd be happy to help you on this matter." You have to propose this subtly without coming on too strong because people in Seattle are generally skeptical -- even if you're being helpful.
Once you get commitment that this person wants your help, follow through by making sure you set up a second meeting to discuss the needs or project in detail. What I'm proposing here is extra work for you, but if it's done with the right people at the right time it can lead to possible referrals and connections for years to come.
If you want to grow your career, it's not so much about hard skills as it is about relationships. Share your success stories below; I want to know how you're doing with this technique.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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