How to network
Using a referral to meet people you don't know

An essential "how to network" skill is the ability to set up a face to face meeting with someone that you haven't yet met.

These are people that your existing contacts have recommended that you meet, or talk to, because they can possibly provide you with information or guidance in relation to your job search.

The importance of this type of job search networking, meeting with people to whom you have been referred, is particularly relevant for people in executive careers.

Networking is, for most executives, just something that they do as a normal part of their work.

As explained in networking tips it is entirely reasonable for one executive to seek advice or guidance in relation to career research.

The key to doing this successfully is how you make the contact phone call.

Networking tips

The basic principles for approaching people for an information interview were explained in job networking

You will use a very similar approach when setting up a meeting with a referral. What you are doing is requesting:

  • A short face to face meeting of somewhere between 15-30 minutes duration.
  • A meeting at a time and place to suit the contact.
  • Their advice or guidance, not their assistance in finding you your next career or job opportunity.

If you are unsure or not confident about how to network this way, it is suggested that you again prepare a script. This will enable you to concisely and professionally obtain your contact's agreement to meet with you.

How to network
Telephone contact script guidelines

Some key points to remember here are:

  • The person you are contacting will not know who you are - so you need to get to the point quickly - explaining your reason for making the phone call.
  • Use the name of the contact who referred you very early in the call.
  • Your request for a meeting has to be put in very non threatening terms i.e. you are seeking advice or guidance.
  • A little genuine flattery often goes a long way - you're seeking their advice because of their extensive knowledge or experience in relation to your area of career research.
  • Gently influence the person into agreeing to a meeting - the way you ask is very important e.g. "How open are you to the idea of meeting with me for 15-20 minutes?"

Networking tips
Formula for writing your script

Follow this basic formula when preparing your telephone script

Hi, my name is....

A mutual acquaintance that we have (insert the name of the contact who referred you to this person) suggested I call you.

The reason for my call is that I'm considering a career (or job) change and I'm seeking some advice or guidance from people in-the-know regarding my options.

Mention the name of your contact. Allude to the person you are calling's knowledge and experience (try a little sincere flattery).

Emphasise that you are doing career research, not looking for a job.

Test to see how open they are to the idea of a meeting.

Agree to a mutually convenient time.

How to network - contact script sample

So that you can see how such a script might come together, here's an example.

A person you already know by the name of Betty Smith has referred you to a professional associate of hers called Joel Williams. You are approaching Joel for career research advice and guidance.

Your script might be as follows:

"Hi, my name is Shane Albert.

A professional associate of mine called Betty Smith, suggested I call you. Betty indicated that she knows you well, and speaks very highly of you, and suggested that you might be in a position to help me.

The reason for my call is that I'm considering a career (or job) change and I'm seeking some advice or guidance from people in the know regarding my options.

Betty indicated to me that you have extensive knowledge and experience of the international wine marketing field, and because of this might be able to give me suitable advice and guidance to assist me in my career decision making.

Joel, I want to emphasise that I'm doing career research and it's advice and guidance that I'm needing. I don't want or expect any direct help from you in relation to finding a job or in making my next career move.

How open would you be to the idea of meeting with me in the near future, say for 15-20 minutes over a drink or a cup of coffee? I have a number of questions I'd like to ask you about the wine marketing field.

That's great Joel. I really appreciate this. When is a good time for you? Where would be the easiest place for you to meet me?"

How to network
Be natural when making contact

You would, of course, adapt the previous script to your own personal style.

Use the script as a guide only. Nothing sounds more false or rehearsed than a telephone contact script that is read out as it has been written.

You might find it easiest just to have several headings in your notes just to help keep you focused and efficient when you make your contact call.

Telephone contact tips

You will probably already know that you have to pay particular attention to the way you use your voice when making these phone calls. Some tips:

  • Visualise confidence before you make the call
  • Project confidence and enthusiasm in your voice when you make contact
  • Speak clearly and distinctly - don't rush
  • Don't forget to use your contact's name during the call

How to network
Getting past reception

People in executive career will almost certainly have a receptionist or administrative assistant that will screen their telephone calls.

So.....you had better have a strategy for getting around the question that the receptionist is likely to ask - "May I ask what this call is in relation to?"

Here's some things you can try:

  • Ask the person who has referred you for the contacts direct line number if they have one. Executives who have a direct line will often answer their own phone.
  • Many executives have an early start to the day - so call early, before usual business hours. Administrative and executive support staff tend to work normal office hours.
  • In answer to the question "What is this in relation to?".....try "I'm calling on a personal matter."

How to network - next steps

Now that you've got your meeting set up, the next thing you'll need to do is to plan to have successful and professional informational interviews and meetings. Go to the link for some more ideas.

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Related Links

How to get started with networking - explains the first steps in job networking
How to set up meetings and interviews - Proven techniques for getting contacts to meet with you
Fine tune your networking skills andlearn about the benefits of referral networking
How to conduct your networking meetings - the art of having an information interview