Are you networking where it counts? Does the time you spend networking provide value to others as well as yourself? Busy, mobile professionals “should” be networking with those doing similar work both to become better known and to learn more about how the work is changing. But, making the time and feeling like you are getting a reasonable pay-back for that time often makes doing that networking difficult. Now there is a new book out that can provide you with a structure to get the desired bang for your buck.
The authors, are both members of an executive search firm and because of their work, they get lots of requests for informational interviews. Many of the executives they have met with are not very good at this kind of networking. That was the catalyst for their writing The 20-Minute Networking Meeting.
As the title itself indicates, what used to be the accepted length of such interviews (i.e. one hour) has been shortened in our fast-forward world. Now individuals should aim for a 20 minute interview. This means the interviewer needs to structure the interview tightly and do his/her homework so that interview is rich in its rewards.
Ballinger and Perez provide a very detailed outline of approximately how long you should spend on the various parts of the interview – introduction and overview (4 minutes total), discussion (12-15 minutes), ending (2 minutes) and follow-up after the meeting. A number of points stand out as they discuss these components.
- They underline the importance of being prepared mentally to introduce yourself: They make the point that you should provide an overview of where you are in your career that leads logically into why you are seeking this interview. This is very different from summarizing your whole resume.
- Do your homework by thinking about who this person is and what they have done or are doing that you think might be helpful to you. This is how you engage them in the conversation, show you are not wasting their time, and focused on building your capabilities. Doing this homework, however, means learning about their background and activities (hello LinkedIn!) and thinking about exactly what questions and topics you want to discuss.
- Finally, they suggest that the last part of the interview should focus on how you might be able to help the individual who has just spent 20 minutes of their very valuable time talking to you. Think about who you might know or what you might know that would be of use to them. If you can’t come up with something, ask them directly what you might do for them and then, of course, be sure to follow-up.
Over arching themes throughout the book are the importance of saying “Thank you” before and after the discussion and of inhabiting your identity as a highly competent professional. And finally, they point out that you have to mine the information you get; you are unlikely to get the perfect answer in any one interview. But the ideas discussed can add up over the interviews and your reputation as a committed, forward-thinking consultant continues to grow with each interview you do.
Of course, a blog entry can’t do justice to a well-written book, so go forth and buy it. It is a worthy investment for your future career.
The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez, Keystone Search Publications, 2012.
Sally Power, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and personal consultant accelerating successful career transitions.