There are hundreds of opportunities for networking, and if you take advantage of a fraction of them you’ll likely meet scores of people with whom you can “network.”
You can take their info, follow up, schedule a face-to-face meeting. In fact, the networking events that I’ve been to lately are huge proponents of the face-to-face meeting as the next step in networking.
Here’s the problem with face-to-face meetings: they take a lot of time.
Time is a limited resource, and we have to make the most of what we have. If you find yourself watching daytime television on a Thursday, you might have time to take meetings with everyone who requests them. If you’re like many professionals, even those in transition, the time, gas money and coffee money that you spend meeting someone in person might be better spent on targeted approaches or business development.
So how do you know whether it makes sense to have that face-to-face meeting?
If you have a job search mission statement or a business plan, you’re on your way to the answer.
Take whatever you have as far as strategic direction, and make a list of what you need to accomplish it.
If you’re in job search, it might look like this:
- A connection to XYZ Target Company
- An informational interview with someone in market research
- A resume critique from a hiring manager….
If you’re networking for your business, it might be:
- Leads on target companies
- Potential new employees for your team
- Vendors or strategic partners
Review your list before you head out to meet people, and you’ll already know who can best help you advance your cause.
Of course, it’s also good to pay it forward. If you know you can help someone and they ask to meet, help them how you can. But if neither you nor the person you’re talking with can identify a natural fit — or, an even better reason, if you don’ t hit it off — it is okay to close the conversation with, “It was nice to meet you.” Then move on, and spend your time an energy developing relationships that have a clear potential benefit — even if that’s just great conversation.
And if you need tips on how to decline that face-to-face without being a jerk, check out what Scott has to say on protecting your time.
cc photo credit TheAlienessGiselaGiardino – via Flickr