Employment Specialist Rachel Devries is here to answer your job-related questions! Her second entry offers tips on how to land an in-person meeting with your LinkedIn connections.
By Rachel Devries
Featured photo by Becky Hurvitz, JFMD
I’ve been using LinkedIn to reconnect with old friends and introduce myself to people who work at companies that interest me, but I’m not getting any job offers sent my way. What do I do now?
Dear LinkedIn Learner,
It sounds like you are using LinkedIn to reach out to the right people in the right ways. Now comes your next mission: Use LinkedIn to set up face-to-face meetings.
Today we use online communication as our primary source of conversation, and while an in-person conversation can be scary, it is one of the most powerful ways to make an impression. Meeting someone in-person allows you to show them how personable you are in just a few moments.
But how do you go about asking a busy person who you don’t really know to meet with you?
First, during your online communication, establish why it is that you want to meet with that person specifically (i.e. “Dear Mr. Goldberg, I am intrigued by the article you wrote last week in the Detroit Free Press about saving for retirement and would love to hear more about your perspective on this…”)
Notice that I didn’t immediately say, “I want to talk about you hiring me!” When you are networking, you are hoping to gain connections, not just a job offer. The job offers will come when you have strong connections.
The next step in composing your ask is to be specific about where and when you want to meet: (“I would love to treat you to coffee soon; are you able to meet with me at a coffee shop near you for an hour on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon this month?”)
Often a slight change in our ask is what stops us from getting the “Yes! Let’s meet Wednesday at noon at Starbucks,” response. A vague request (“Can we grab coffee sometime?”) will leave you with a vague response (“Sounds great!”), which allows the conversation to quickly die.
Now that we have the ask down, let’s talk networking etiquette and guidelines, using Mr. Goldberg as our example:
1. Arrive on time to the coffee shop (Read: Arrive 10 minutes early to reserve a seat for you and your guest.)
2. When Mr. Goldberg arrives, walk up to him with a smile, offer a firm handshake and immediately thank him for taking time from his busy day to meet with you.
3. Offer him to put his stuff down at your table and then to come with you to the counter so you may buy him a drink. If he says your drink is on him, thank him and kindly explain that it would be your honor to buy him a drink. If he insists one more time, say “thank you” and let him pay – no reason to start an argument here.
4. The awkwardness you may feel can be alleviated by remembering that whoever you are meeting with (even if they have a C-suite title) is human. Before you “get down to business,” break the ice by asking him about normal life matters (i.e. the NBA playoffs, his favorite coffee drink, upcoming trips…)
5. As the conversation eases to it, thank him again for meeting with you, then sincerely compliment him on his work, writing, company, volunteer work or whatever it is that made you want to meet with him in the first place.
6. Ask him about his professional self (i.e. “How did you get interested in the financial sector?” “How has banking changed during your time in it?”).
Life Hack: Generally, the more you allow people to talk about themselves, the more comfortable they’ll feel with you and the more likely they are to think highly of you.
7. If you are looking for work, now may be a good time to say, “Confidentially, I am hoping to make a career change and it’s important to me to hear your ideas about the field and your career path before I continue on.” Then pause with a smile and listen intently. Notice I did not ask if he had any job openings; rather, I sincerely complimented him again and opened the floor for suggestions and advice. Without awkwardly or annoyingly asking for a job, I made it clear that I am looking for new employment.
8. At the end of the conversation, stand up, shake hands, thank him again and share that you hope to stay in contact.
That same day (within a few hours), email him to say something like,
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
Thank you for meeting with me today. I am excited to read the books you mentioned and to reach out to your contact, Shelley Smith. I hope you have fun in Colorado this weekend! Please stay in touch and please let me know if you hear of an opening in the accounting sector that would fit my passions and skills.
- I talked about his upcoming trip to make the connection feel personal.
- I mentioned specific advice that he shared with me to show I was listening and take his guidance seriously.
- I kept my ask for assistance specific, clear and concise.
- Stay in contact with Mr. Goldberg by emailing him, as appropriate, every few weeks/months, sending articles of interest to him, and liking and commenting on his LinkedIn posts. Stay on his radar and on the top of his mind so he thinks to reach out to you when he is able to assist you.
Continue to connect with people who interest you online and challenge yourself to take your conversations offline. When you meet face-to-face, be kind, be inquisitive and be thankful – you got this!
Rachel Devries wants to help you make your next interview, your last interview. Born and raised in Michigan, Rachel is a graduate from the University of Michigan and a Certified Global Career Development Facilitator. As an Employment Specialist at JVS Human Services, she works with young adults ages 21-45 through NEXTGen Detroit. Rachel also teaches JVS workshops for jobseekers. Rachel is available to advise you through your employment search, revamp your resume and cover letter and introduce you to high-level professionals.
Do you have a job-related question on the brain? Email Rachel for your chance to be featured in “Rachel’s Read” at firstname.lastname@example.org.