Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the old days, when you could sit by the phone and wait for those clients to call and offer you contracts? Think back to the days when putting a resume out on the street meant multiple job offers. Remember when college graduates came out of school and employers were lined up to hire them? Those were the days.
It’s so nice to reminisce. Unfortunately, there is one small problem with this stroll down memory lane; it never really happened that way. The concept that no one had to fight for a job is almost an urban legend, because good jobs have never fallen from the trees. It is certainly true that finding a job is currently difficult, so we have to make sure we are handling ourselves in the best possible way in those networking meetings.
Right now, there is almost an obsession with networking. This could be due to the increased pressure we all feel, but if we’re looking for work, (or even a new client), we have to make sure we are meeting with the people who can help us find work. Often, the meetings bring us together with a person who may know someone who can give us work. We prep for this appointment by focusing on:
- How to ask the right questions.
- How to dress properly.
- How to listen.
Sounds just about perfect except one critical element is missing. If you have ever met with another individual whose help you are looking for, you know exactly what it is. The missing piece is learning how to ask someone for help.
How often have you finished a phone conversation, or walked out of a lunch meeting and thought: “I did everything but ask for help.” We dance around this issue, and I believe we dance because we don’t know how to ask for help. Let’s fix that now.
We seem comfortable preparing basic information gathering questions for these appointments. There is just one more simple question you need to add to the list:
“I value your advice, and could use your help. If you were me, what would you do to try and pursue this position?”
Asking that question removes the 800 pound gorilla that’s been sitting in the room, and you will notice a completely different tone to the conversation you are having. The person you are talking to will shift gears, focus, and begin to think about ways to truly help you. Don’t be surprised to hear things like this:
“If I were you, I’d contact Ms. Johnson’s assistant, find out more about this position you are looking for, and get on her schedule. You know, I know her assistant. I’ll tell you what; let me make a couple of calls, and I’ll find out what I can.”
If you are meeting with someone to network, he or she knows why you are there. You can make as much small talk as you’d like, but rarely is the person you are meeting with going to initiate and ask if they can help you. That needs to come from you, and that needs to be prepared ahead of time and practiced. If you prepare for this, I’m willing to bet that you’ll get a whole lot more out of the meetings you are having. People do want to help; you just have to be honest and ask for their help. That simple question will allow them to do just that!