The connections you make during your professional journey can drive success and career development. Reaching out to a potential professional connection or even a possible mentor and meeting with them 1-on-1 is a great way to strengthen your network and build the career you desire. These connections are vital, whether they come through mutual connections or an industry event. But before you meet someone, you should know some things about them. A little bit of research and basic due diligence can make a meeting much more productive and foster the connection you seek.
Here are a few essential tips to ensure you are prepared for your networking meeting:
Know their career history.
Before you meet someone, it’s best to do some basic research on their career and background. Online information is abundant, from LinkedIn to personal websites to corporate bios on company websites.
All of these sources can give you a sense of their career trajectory and background. Knowing how someone got their start in a career, the transitions they have made, and how they got to where they are today can provide tremendous insight and the opportunity to find some common ground. Perhaps they attended the same university as you did or got a similar start in a different industry to yours and then transitioned. All of this can help you guide the conversation, ensure it is productive, and help you establish a connection. Knowing a person’s career history is the beginning of getting to know their story. Meeting with them can be a way to fill in the blanks of that story.
Learn About their workplace.
Find out as much as you can about where they work, especially if they are an entrepreneur and started their own company. Understanding their business, its goals, and why it has been successful is a great way for you to prepare to meet them. It allows you to have a conversation on their terms, understanding their point of view, and the philosophy and approach of their business. You want to be able to speak intelligently about what they do and understand their approach to business.
You can also learn some crucial details: Has the business been in growth mode? Have they had to endure any recent crisis? Have they been sold or gone through a transition? This information can clue you in about some valuable insight the person might have. Perhaps your company recently merged, and you are looking for some insight as to how to handle the transition. Knowing that someone else has had to do the same thing can help you tap that person as a resource and establish a quick, lasting friendship.
Investigate their areas of expertise.
Take some time to learn where their area of expertise lies and what career experiences they have chosen to emphasize.
Have they been a change agent in their career? What technologies are they knowledgeable about? What accomplishments have they chosen to highlight? This research also can give you some idea of the challenges they have perhaps encountered in their career. It also can help you see areas where you have some commonality or where they might be able to offer you some important insights based on their experience.
It’s a great way to see what they view as important in their career and what accomplishments they have decided to emphasize on a resume or a corporate bio page. Do they talk about technology they have rolled out? Do they site numbers to articulate the success of initiatives? These can be terrific points of information and help you get on the path to asking the right questions.
Another good idea is to check out any videos they might have up. If they have given a talk at a conference, be sure to view it. It’s one way to learn about their philosophy and approach to business. These talks usually include personal anecdotes meant to illustrate a point. It’s an easy way to get to know the person you are about to meet with.
Make a strong connection.
The more you know about a person, the more prepared you are to make an impression and have a valuable and meaningful conversation. Small talk is quite dull – it’s a forgettable time filler. Most people are happy to talk about their accomplishments, their industry, and answer your questions. Talking about the weather only goes so far.
Also, doing some due diligence about a person can help you identify areas you want to talk about. Perhaps you are rolling out a new initiative, and this person had to do something very similar. They could provide you with some great perspective based on their experience. The bottom line is taking some time, and doing some research on the front end can pay tremendous dividends for you personally and professionally.
Looking to connect with a leader who can offer advice and guidance? Meet with an Ivy Exec Mentor!