Category Archives: Career Networking

10 ways to optimize your LinkedIn engagement in 2018

Having a strong LinkedIn profile is essential to being found by other LinkedIn members and employers, but your job isn’t complete unless you’re communicating with your LinkedIn community on a consistent basis. This will contribute to optimizing your LinkedIn engagement.


I tell my LinkedIn workshop attendees that I spend approximately an hour a day (it’s probably more) on LinkedIn. Their faces register surprise, and I’m sure some of them wonder if I have a life.

But networking is about communication. If you’re going to use LinkedIn to its full potential as a networking tool, you need to communicate with your connections on a more consistent basis. So far you have optimized your profile and network of connections. Now it’s time to complete the circle; optimize your whole LinkedIn campaign.

Here are 10 ways to do just that:

1. Direct messages

The most obvious way to optimize your LinkedIn engagement is to communicate with your connections directly. LinkedIn’s “Messaging” feature allows you to have running chats with all your first-degree connections. At first this was disconcerting, however; LinkedIn members got used to it.

In addition, the “Messaging” feature follows you around the site. You can read and send messages no matter what page you’re on — an obvious sign that LinkedIn wants you to communicate with your connections.

2. Share updates often

Another great way to optimize your engagement with your connections is by is posting updates. How many you post is up to you, but I suggest at least one a day. Some people tell me they don’t even have time to update once a week. I tell these people that they need to stay top of mind. When you’re not seen, you’re forgotten.

You’ll notice that LinkedIn has given its members the ability to create and post video updates. It’s a nice feature, but few people are using it. This could be an option to consider in order to make your updates stand out.

3. Like and comment on your connections’ updates

Another way to communicate with your connections is to “like” their updates. Simply liking their updates is not enough, in my opinion. I would go as far as saying that this is lazy.

To optimize your LinkedIn engagement, you should get a little more creative by commenting on the update. This shows that you read and thought about what they wrote. Additionally this can generate valuable discussion.

4. Don’t hide yourself when you visit your connections’ profiles

Some people adjust their privacy settings so that they only show up as “Anonymous LinkedIn User” or “Someone from the (particular) Industry” when they visit other people’s profiles. Not me! I visit my connections’ profiles — with full disclosure — many times a day. My connections will visit my profile many times as well.

When people visit my profile under the veil of secrecy, I do nothing. When people drop in announced, however, I’ll show my appreciation by writing to them, “Thanks for visiting my profile.” This will also lead to a discussion.

5. Endorse your connections

You’ve probably read many opinions from people on the topic of endorsements. Add me to the list of people who prefer both receiving and writing thoughtful recommendations to simply clicking the “Endorse” button.

In fairness, endorsements do have a greater purpose than showing appreciation for someone’s skills and expertise: They are a way to touch base with connections. This is another way to optimize your engagement. As they say, “Spread the love.”

6. Participate in discussions regularly

This is a great way to share ideas with established and potential connections. I have gained many new connections by actively participating in discussions on LinkedIn.

Believe it or not, I don’t find groups to be the best places for discussions. Instead, it’s better to start them via updates you post from your homepage. There are people who do a great job of optimizing their engagement because they add comments that generate more communication.

7. Be a curator 

If your connections blog, take the effort to read their posts and comment on their writing. This is an effective way to create synergy in the blogging community, and also a great way to get material for your daily updates.

One of the easiest ways to optimize your engagement is to share posts from other sources you read on a regular basis. There are plenty of online publications which provide relevant information for your network. Sharing knowledge is part of your networking campaign.

Take It a Step Further

An online connections will not become a fully thriving relationships until you’ve communicated with them in a more personal way. While LinkedIn offers many powerful ways to communicate with your network, there will come a time when you’ll need to move off LinkedIn in order to take your networking relationships to the next level.

8. Send an Email

Email doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it’s an important step in developing a more personal relationship with a connection. You should have access to the email addresses of all your first-degree connections on LinkedIn, so use that information when you’re ready.

9. Call Your Connections

This is a daunting step to many, but it’s a necessary one.

That said, don’t just call your connection out of the blue. Email them first to let them know you’d like to call. Write the reason for your call; if it’s your first call, you’ll probably want to talk about who you are and what your professional goals are. You don’t want to put your connection in an awkward situation or catch them off guard, so be clear about the purpose of your call.

10. Meet Your Connections Over Coffee

Finally comes the face-to-face meeting at a place that is convenient for both of you. If your connection lives in a distant location, you may suggest getting together when you’ll be in their city or town.

When you meet in person with a connection, that person becomes a bona fide member of your personal professional network. This is the ultimate way to communicate with a LinkedIn connection. It may not happen often, particularly if a connection lives far from you, but when such meetings do occur, they present great possibilities.

Having a great LinkedIn profile is only the start. To really make the most of the site, you must communicate with your connections. It’s your activity on LinkedIn that makes the difference between standing still in your career and realizing professional success.

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn, visit this compilation of LinkedIn posts.


6 reasons keeping you from asking for help during your job search

And what to do about it.

You know the “Golden Rule” of networking: offer help before asking for help. This is good in theory. When you give first, others will return the favor. It may not be the person to whom you gave a slam-dunk lead, but the favor will eventually be returned.

Professional man

Many take this golden rule to heart, almost to the point where they don’t ask for help. It’s as if they don’t believe they deserve being helped with their job search, which to me is a huge shame. Here are some reasons why you might not ask for help and what to do about it.

1. You feel shame

I understand the feeling of the shame and embarrassment of being unemployed, because I’ve been there. Even though I was laid off when the company for which I worked was acquired, I felt like I had let myself and my family down. I know now that the shame I felt was irrational.

What do. What’s rational is realizing that your friends, relatives, neighbors, former colleagues understand that people lose their jobs. It’s part of human nature to, at one point or another, be unemployed. In fact, some of these people were probably unemployed. So, put your shame aside and ask them for help.

2. You don’t think you need help

Many people who haven’t had to look for work for  many years don’t anticipate how difficult the job search can be. Take an executive who’s risen to the top of her career. She’s was in the position of hiring candidates. Now the roles are reversed, and the way employers are hiring have changed.

What to do: Like the executive, you need to understand the job search has changed and be willing to accept help from those who are trained to help you, as well as from other job seekers who have been in the job search more recently. Even executive-level job seekers struggle in the job search.

3. You’re too proud

Some people who are unemployed are too proud to ask for help, because to ask for help is a sign of weakness. From an early age we grew up believing independence is admired and a sign of strength. Helping others is what we should do.

What to do: Now is the time to swallow your pride. If you’ve been helping others throughout your life, or even more recently, accept help from others. Believe it or not, people are willing to help. Social psychologist point out that helping others gives us a sense of pride and happiness, so make other people happy by asking for help.

Being Polite

4. You don’t know who to ask

Knowing who to ask is difficult for some job seekers. They ask me who to approach. My answer to them is “everyone.” As absurd as it may seem, anyone can be of assistance. These are what we call the superficial connections.

What to do: Certainly you will ask your former colleagues and supervisors, as they are you top tier. Beyond that look to your community, including friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Organized networking groups, buddy groups, and professional associations are also a great source of help.

5. You don’t know how to ask

“Excuse me, do you know of any jobs available?” This is what you wonder, and this is what you want to ask someone who might know this answer. But it is wrong, because it puts people on the spot and makes you appear desperate.

What to do: Simply by letting people know that you’re out of work will put them on notice. They’ll keep you in mind when they hear of openings. Ping people occasionally is what I tell job seekers. Send an email to them to let them know about your search, but don’t always make your pings about your job search.

6. You don’t know when to ask

There are the premature askers–such as a person who asks for help immediately upon sending a LinkedIn invite—and the Johnny come lately askers—the person who summons up the courage after a positions been filled.

What to do: You’re at a professional association event speaking to an insider at a company for which you want to work? Now is  the time to ask for help. Remember reason number 5; don’t ask for a job. Rather, ask if you could connect on LinkedIn or if the person would have time to give you advice on your job search.

Asking for help can be difficult at times; it can even take courage. However, during the job search it’s a necessity. As I tell job seekers, “Going it alone will make your job search longer…much longer.”

Photo: Flickr, Дŋøŋ ДђḾęĐ

Job-seeker buddy groups: 6 pros, 2 cons

How do you react when you hear the word networkingDo you feel uncomfortable, roll your eyes, or even break out in a sweat? You’re not alone if the prospect of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Truth be known, most people don’t relish the idea of networking.


Truth also be known, networking remains the most effective way to get referred for jobs that aren’t advertised. According to, 40% of hires come from referrals, twice the number than the next option, the company’s website. So networking seems like a no-brainer.

I’m not here to say you shouldn’t network. I’m here to say try networking in a different way. Join a buddy group.

Pros of Buddy Groups

Smaller and more intimate

Buddy groups generally number six—some smaller, others larger. In a smaller group, members keep track of each other, making it easier for the members to keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities that fit each other. This is not always possible with large networking groups, which consist of 20 to 80 people.

Large groups can also be intimidating, which leads me to my next benefit of buddy groups.

Ideal for introverts

Speaking as an introvert, I’m more comfortable in smaller group settings than large groups. The size of buddy groups makes it easier to know each member and develop deeper relationships, which is ideal for introverts.

This is not to say introverts will back away from large networking groups. If they attend larger groups, their goal is to talk to fewer people to have deeper conversations. Extraverts, on the other hand, enjoy “working the room.”

Members are held accountable

Buddy groups that gather on a regular basis  are more likely to hold their members accountable for their job-search actions. If, for example, a member says during a meeting, that he will schedule four coffee meetings the following week, he will be questioned about scheduling those meetings the next time the group meets.

Keeping track of job seekers at large networking groups is extremely difficult. Often job seekers will come an go to large networking groups. You might see some members sporadically.

Meetings can be mobile


Unlike large networking groups which are held at the same place, at the same time;  buddy groups can be held at different locations. Because buddy groups are usually held where its members prefer, there are more options. Perhaps the location is decided  based on each members’ hometown, or the members’ choice of cafe, as examples.

On the other hand, buddy group member might prefer holding their meetings at the same location for consistency.  I know of one buddy group that meets at the same restaurant before their large networking event.

Joining one requires an invitation

Buddy groups can be formed to include members who share similar interests and occupations. Software engineers, project managers, hardware engineers might create a skills share group, consisting of six to 10 people, who gather to work on a project.

Or the members of a buddy group might prefer a variety of occupations. As one job seeker said, “We would all be applying to the same jobs, and I think that would make it more competitive, when it should be supportive.”

Gets you out of the house

As inconsequential this may sound, getting out your house where you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for six hours a day, until it starts humming at you; it’s important for your state of mind.

This will be part of your routine. You’ll look forward to meeting with your buddies at a specific time, maybe a particular place–although as stated earlier, the location might change.

Read 6 tips for getting out of your house during your job search.

Some Cons of Buddy Groups

Although great in concept, buddy groups can have their drawbacks. After all, they are intimate groups that meet on a consistent basis. With consistency comes conflict.

Might become stagnant

One of buddy groups’ strengths, their consistent meetings, can be a weakness. Undoubtedly there will be times when the meeting is not as productive as the members would like.

I run a “job club” at an urban career center, and I will be the first to say that sometimes the meetings fall flat. Structure is important. But for structure to be successful, the activities must be of interest to the members of the group.

Members might not be the right fit

Like working in a team, some members don’t fit. This can happen with buddy groups, as well. A member or two might not pull their weight, dominate the conversations, be too negative.

I asked a member of a buddy group what the group would do in a case where a member is hurting the group. She said deadpan, “Ask them to leave.” It’s easier said than done, but it might come to this.

There are far more benefits than disadvantages of a buddy group. One I haven’t mentioned is the moral support job seekers gain from their buddy groups. I don’t encourage buddy groups be a platform for people to bemoan their situation, but there must be times when they can let out their frustrations.


4 steps to take—at minimum—to ask for a favor on LinkedIn

Very recently I received an invitation from someone to be in their network. At first I was pleased to see “See more” below the person’s Headline. This was promising, as it means the person had taken the time to personalize the invite.

Being Polite

In some cases the personalized invites are flattering, telling me how much they enjoyed reading a post I had written. In other cases the requester tells me how we know each other; maybe he attended one of my workshops. In a few cases the person might elaborate on how we met, using all the 300 characters allotted for an invite.

At the end of the invite, the good ones write, “Please let me know if I can be of assistance.”

Almost never do I get a request in the first invite to have me review her LinkedIn profile, which begins with, “Can you review my profile?” That’s it. No flattery, no explaining how we know each other. But this one said exactly that.

What I did

The first thing I did was to click ignore without a second thought. No regret or guilt. After all, I do the same when there is no personalized invite, indicating no effort and plain laziness.

Then I shared on LinkedIn my experience with some of my valued connections. The post was not meant to be a complaint as much to as to be a learning moment. However, the conversation took off and and is still brewing.

The comments mostly support my thoughts on the rude way the individual asked me to review his profile. Some write I was being a bit harsh and should have understood some people don’t understand LinkedIn etiquette.

None say I was completely out of line with my action. As I said, the conversation is still brewing, so I’m bound to get “You’re being the LinkedIn police, Bob.” I hope it doesn’t come to this, but I firmly believe that one shouldn’t ask for a favor in their first invitation.

When should one ask for a favor, deliver the ask?

At minimum there are four steps you should take before delivering the “ask.” Whether you’re asking for services or trying to sell a product, you need to develop a relationship with the person from whom you need a favor.

1. The initial introduction: Most of us are on LinkedIn to help each other; this is our community. However, there is etiquette one must follow. First, a proper invite is required.

“Bob, I’ve followed your posts on LinkedIn and many of them resonate with me. I’d like to connect with you so I can have direct access to your articles. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.”

Your invitation is accepted and you are now first degree connections, so your next step is to thank your new connection for accepting you to their network. This is still not the time to make the “ask.”

2. Get noticed by your new connection. There should be at least one more correspondence or interaction, perhaps a comment on a shared idea or post. Even a like would count as an interaction; although not as significant as a comment. You are on your new connection’s radar.

3. You should comment on one or more shares from your new connection. It’s not hard to discover what your connection shares; simply go to their profile and click “See all activity” under the person’s Activities and Articles section.

4. You’re established. After the second or third interaction is your chance to make the “ask.” You still want to be diplomatic, not blunt, in your request. Send a direct message from your connection’s profile. Go ahead; don’t be afraid to hit the message button (seen below).
message button

“Hi Bob. I’ve enjoyed being in your network. I’ve learned more about what you do, and I’ve read your profile. On your profile you say you will briefly review your connections’ profile. Would you kindly review mine at your convenience. I appreciate your expertise. Again, let me know if I can help you.”

At this time your connection should be willing to do a favor for you. I know I would. The most important thing is feeling out your new connection to see if they’re open to doing a favor for you. These are the four minimum steps you should take before asking for a favor from a new connection.

Now got to the comment I shared with my connections. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP FIRST. Leave your comment there, good, bad, or ugly.

Photo: Flickr, Jon Fravel



5 reasons job seekers dread networking events, and what to do about it

How do you react when you hear the word “networking?” Do you feel uncomfortable, roll your eyes, or even break out in a sweat? You’re not alone if the prospect of networking doesn’t make you jump for joy. Truth be known, most people don’t relish the idea of networking.

Scared Networker

Truth also be known, networking remains the most effective way to get referred for jobs that aren’t advertised. According to, 40% of hires come from referrals, twice the number than the next option, the company’s website.

So why do job candidates react negatively when they hear the word “networking?”

Here are five common reasons why networking is dreaded, and what you can do about it:

1. You think it’s too late

Most job seekers have one thing – and one thing only – on their minds: landing a job. Their finances are suffering and their state of mind is in shambles. There’s no time to waste. They need to find a job now.

This sense of urgency is only heightened when you need to develop an effective network immediately – a network you should have developed while you were working.

Unfortunately, many people don’t think about networking when they’re gainfully employed. They feel secure in their positions, or they consider it to be in bad taste; both conclusions are false.

What you should do: Tell yourself that it isn’t too late. As we’ve heard many times, networking is all about building and maintaining relationships. To build relationships requires some give and take. You need to be patient, despite the urgency that is consuming you.

I tell my workshop attendees, “The next job you land, make sure you keep up with your networking – which means also letting people know about jobs that exist (unadvertised) at your company.” Think not only of yourself, but also of others who are looking for work.

2. You’re outside your comfort zone

Introverts are particularly prone to feeling uncomfortable during networking events. Many of these events consist of hoards of people huddled together in a library, church, or other free space.

These environments can be hard on an introvert – but it also makes effective networking hard for everyone. To be effective when networking, you need relaxed conversations before you can deliver your elevator pitch. Often this is not the case.

What you should do: Develop a game plan. If you’re introverted, don’t expect to “work the room.” Rather, plan to speak with a few people. Be sure to arrive with some questions for particular people, as well as a few talking points.

Put the people with whom you speak at ease. Don’t jump into your elevator speech immediately. You’ll probably flub it. Instead, talk about current events, the weather, what brought the person there, etc.

3. You have to talk about yourself

I hear it all the time. “I can talk about other people, but when it comes to me, I can’t do it.” Or, “It feels like bragging.” Look at it this way: you’re not bragging; you’re promoting yourself when the time is right.

Simply networking

For example, you wouldn’t declare during dinner that your gift to employers is that you increase productivity. However, when you’re asked during a networking event or connecting in the community, these are ideal places to let people know what you do and how well you do it.

What you should do: Talking about what you do and the value you deliver to employers should come across as normal conversation. Use your own voice and style to do this. Don’t rely on some formula you learned from career pundits. It may not work for you.

If talking about yourself or making small talk is not your thing, go to events with the purpose of listening to others. Ask questions and add your input on occasion. My warning here is that you don’t allow people to take advantage of your willingness to listen.

4. You believe you have to attend organized events

I’ve always insisted that there is no single environment that’s best for networking. Networking can happen everywhere, whether you’re at a family gathering, a sporting event, a summer BBQ, a religious meeting place, or pretty much anywhere else.

Networking is about building relationships. True. But many an opportunity has arisen when least expected. Say you’re watching your kid’s soccer game and you overhear a woman talking about how she can’t get good help in her Q.A. department.

You’re in Q.A. You politely introduce yourself and mention this bit of information. Before you know it, the woman is asking for your personal business card.

What you should do: See everywhere you go as an opportunity to network. Let me illustrate. Many years ago, my cousin Johnny attended a family gathering, at which he explained his situation and the type of work he was looking for. I considered this incredibly tacky.

Jump to five years later when there was an IT opening at the software company for which I worked. I remembered what Johnny said the day of the party and recommended him to our CFO. He was hired for the position.

5. You expect instant gratification

I’ll admit that going to networking events can be disheartening at times, especially if I don’t leave with at least two or three quality contacts. But after feeling sorry for myself, I reason that the next time will be better.

I remember running into a job seeker who attended a networking event we sponsored. I asked him if he found the event useful. His response was that he didn’t get anything out of it. No one from his industry was there.

What you should do: Do not expect great things the first or second time you attend an event. Be patient. Also, learn how to tell people in an understandable way what you do and how you can help employers. This will help you find leads or obtain great advice sooner rather than later.

The job seeker I mentioned wasn’t keeping an open mind. He should have been thinking of the bigger picture. For example, did anyone know someone at his target companies? Or better yet, how could he have helped someone? At the very least, he should have given it a couple more tries.

Networking can be uncomfortable and almost painful for some people, but it’s something we must all do. The fact remains that networking accounts for roughly 70 percent of jobs landed by job seekers. It is the most successful way of gaining employment – even if it also feels like the most difficult one.

Photo: Flickr, KELLY L






3 things to keep in mind when answering, “Tell me about yourself”

The directive from the interviewer, “Tell me about yourself,” strikes fear in the hearts of even the most confident job candidates. That’s because they haven’t given serious consideration to how they’ll answer this directive.


It’s also because they haven’t taken time to construct a persuasive elevator pitch, which is one of the most important tools in your job search toolbox. There are three components necessary to answer, “Tell me about yourself.”

1. Keep it relevant. You must be aware of what the employer wants from their employees, which requires from you not only researching the job but also the company.

Let’s say, as a trainer, you’re aware of the employer’s need for satisfying people of cultural differences. You’ll begin your elevator speech by addressing this need.

You’ll begin your elevator pitch with something on the lines of:

Along with my highly rated presentation skills, I’ve had particular success with designing presentations that meet the needs of diverse populations.

Then you’ll follow it with an accomplishment, as accomplishments are memorable.

For example, the company for which I last worked employed Khmer and Spanish-speaking people. I translated our presentations into both languages so that my colleagues could deliver their presentations with ease and effectiveness. This was work I did on my own time, but I realized how important it was to the company. I received accolades from the CEO of the company; and I enjoyed the process very much.

Finally, you’ll close your elevator pitch with some of the strong personality skills for which you’ve been acknowledge. In this case, your innovation, assertiveness, and commitment to the company would be appropriate to mention.

2. Be on your toes. Being prepared is essential to job seekers who need to say the right thing at the right time to a prospective employer. This is where your research on the company comes into play—the more you know about said company, the better you can recite your elevator pitch.

One way to answer, “Why should we hire you?” is by using your elevator pitch. Throughout the interview, you’ve paid careful attention to what the employer has been saying regarding the challenges the company is facing.

They need a manager who can develop excellent rapport with a younger staff, while also enforcing rules that have been broken. Based on your new-found knowledge, you realize you’ll have to answer this question with a variation on your rehearsed pitch. You’ll open instead with:

I am a manager who understands the need to maintain an easy-going, professional approach as well as to discipline my employees when necessary. As this is one of your concerns, I can assure you that I will deliver on my promise, as well as exceed other expectations you have for this position.

Then you’ll follow with an example of what you asserted.

If I may give you a specific example of my claim, on many occasions I had to apply the right amount of discipline in various ways. There was one employee who was always late for work and would often return from break or lunch late, as well.

I realized that she required a gentler touch than the others, so I called her to my office and explained the effect she had on the rest of the team when she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. I then explained to her the consequences her tardiness would have on her. (Slight smile.) I don’t think she had been spoken to in such a straightforward manner by her other managers. I treated her with respect.

From that day forward, she was never late. In fact, she earned a dependability award. There are other examples. Would you like to hear them?

3. The purpose of your elevator speech. When employers listen to your elevator pitch, they should recognize skills and accomplishments that set you apart from the rest of the candidates.

Tell your elevator pitch in a concise manner that illustrates these skills; don’t simply provide a list of skills you think are required for the position. Remember that accomplishments are memorable and show your value added, especially if they’re relevant to your audience, e.g., an employer.

Above All Else, Your Elevator Pitch Must Show Value! The value you bring to the employer. As in the example above in which the candidate understands the needs of the employer to be building rapport with young workers, while also enforcing rules; you must know the employers pain points.

Once you’ve got a full grasp on the employer’s pain points, you’ll know which content to include in your elevator pitch and how to deliver. it.

Whether you use your elevator pitch to answer the directive, “Tell me about yourself,” or the question, “Why should I hire you?” there are enough reasons to develop one that is relevant and shows you can think on your feet.

Now read how to answer other tough questions:

“Why should we hire you?”
“What is your greatest weakness?”



10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings go smoothly

The day a woman called me to ask for an “informational interview” I had a feeling it wouldn’t go well. The tone of her voice was monotone, unenthusiastic. She was smacking gum in my ear. Regardless, I said yes and then there was silence. “Hello,” I said.


“Oh, I was just looking through my calendar to see when I’m free,” she replied.

As I suspected, the conversation didn’t go well.

First, let’s set one thing straight: it’s not an informational interview—although that’s how most people refer to it. It’s a networking (or informational) meeting. But regardless of its name, there are 10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings go smoothly.

The purpose of a networking meeting

First of all, no job has been advertised, so these meetings are not actual interviews. That’s why the term “networking meeting” is more fitting.

Second, you’re requesting a networking meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the questions; intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice, and no pressure on you.

Third, your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

10 ways to make sure your networking meetings go smoothly.

1. Ask strong questions. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because it lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem/s.

2. Your enthusiasm level is high. Chances are the person granting you the networking meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met, or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about. Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone—it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. Arrive or call on time. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting.

If you’re calling, set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. Don’t call late or early; call at the exact time.

4. Have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda must provide direction. Don’t come across as wimpy and disorganized.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition—if the person can speak to that point.

While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. Provide data to back up your accomplishments. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you, what you’re made of. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interest are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $3,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $150. Tell her you “love” event planning.

This is great information and should be shared with the person granting you the networking meeting, if asked.

6 Show your gratitude. Don’t make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the networking meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation.

7. Don’t ask for a job. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. A call for action. Always ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often jobseekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign as possible. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. Reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website—this will fit nicely on your résumé.

10. Always send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or a card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A nicely written thank you shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the network meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation—perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company—going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.

Networking meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant networking meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

And please don’t act like the woman who called me for our “informational interview.”

Photo: Flickr, Pulpolux !!!