Networking Pitfall: Lack of preparedness
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
Nothing’s worse than heading into a networking meeting without doing some sort of prep work.
I once had a meeting with a guy named David. I walked into his office and saw a rather sizable aquarium (that looked like it was directed by Tim Burton – and could’ve used a little cleaning, by the way). Fortunately, I had done my research and learned that David was a huge fan of fish and the aquarium concept. He belongs to some aquarium groups and regularly contributes to their discussion boards.
If I hadn’t known this, I probably would’ve walked in, seen the aquarium and started into a diatribe of how I think aquariums and pet fish are the biggest waste of time and money ever. I mean what’s interesting about staring at a fish in a murky container? Oh look, its gills opened. Oh, now it went under that rock. Want to watch me feed it? No, I don’t as a matter of fact. What I’d prefer is to watch you not feed it. Try that for many days in a row…and then see what happens. Maybe then you’ll clean that thing. It’s disgusting and it smells!
That meeting could’ve been a catastrophe, but I did my research. I held back, and didn’t dare go there…because that would do nothing to ingratiate myself to David.
If you have a meeting with someone, hopefully you’ve done some research to uncover a little bit more about the person, identify some common bonds, avert potential disasters. At least do the basic things such as googling the person, reading a bio, finding out what community or charity events they partake in. There’s really a fine line between being prepared and stalking, right?!
When you meet with the person, armed with so much knowledge about them, there’s no need to divulge it all. Little things can be dropped into the conversation very casually. I remember sitting in a job interview a few years back, and was meeting with a woman named Dana. Prior to our meeting, I read her bio and saw that she was involved in a charity called Logopedics? Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. In fact, no one has heard of it…other than those women who were in the sorority of Kappa Alpha Theta in college. Immediately, I thought, she must be a Theta. I checked the Alumna directory and sure enough, there was her name. We shared that in common.
The first thing I said when we met was “Guess where I was this weekend?” Given that we’d never even met before, she had no idea. I said “I went to Grand Convention! Can you believe it?” I didn’t even mention the word Theta because I knew she’d know. She replied “No…no I can’t believe it!” I think what she couldn’t believe was the fact that I knew she was a Theta Alum. I told her a little about the convention – and how impressed I was with the women I’d met. Then, I asked her about her involvement in the local alum chapter. We had a great conversation – which actually turned into a job offer.
I didn’t need to tell her how I knew. I didn’t need to go into detail about the research. I just put it out there, talked about it for a minute and then moved on.
What I like better than finding activities is finding people we both know. Checking LinkedIn to find out who they know – that you know – is probably the easiest way. But there are plenty of other ways. Are they a coach on a little league baseball team? Look at the team roster and figure out if you know any parents. Are they on the board of a charity? Check the rest of the board to see if you know anyone on the board. Where did they used to work? Do you know anyone at the old company? Where do they live? Maybe you know some of their neighbors? What about college? Maybe you know some of their classmates?
You’ll, be amazed what you find if you just do a little research. And you’ll be even more amazed at how you’re able to turn a good meeting into a great one simply because you took the time to find out a little about that person – and how much they love pet fish!