You’re actively on the hunt for a new job, and growing your network. You’ve been given a new lead, and have set up a coffee meeting with that person.
Whether you’re talking by phone or meeting faced to face, people will be quick to size you up. And they’ll be thinking: “Are you a good person I can trust and would want to hire or refer to people I know? Do I like this person and want to help? The underlying question is:
“But can I trust you?”
In reality – and in this age of constant information and connection “noise,” people are often skeptical of strangers, as well as those folks they haven’t heard from in years. One can’t blame people for being hesitant to talk in the first place – life is busy.
Whether you’re talking by phone or in person, they’ll often be thinking, “Do I like this person and want to help?” “Does this person have sincere goals, or are they just using me?” There’s no science to building trust, but you can practice the art of affecting whether someone feels good about you.
One of my favorite reads was The Likeability Factor, by Tim Sanders. He covers four aspects of likeability. Let’s look at them, and consider the question: How would you rate if we met for the first time?
- Do you smile?
- Are you enthusiastic?
- Would I feel good upon meeting you?
- Would you want to spend time with you?
My client, Clarke, told me of an initial networking meeting he had with Bob, someone he’d not met. Clarke was feeling blue and worn out. He told Bob that his job as a security guard was “boring and terrifying at the same time; that he had just witnessed a shooting the night before, and he was glad to get home some nights without being shot.”
Hardly a good conversation with someone you’ve just met. And certainly not if you’re seeking their help.
With coaching, he turned this around. His conversation now frames around, “I was one of the top-seniority security guards at a major corporate facility. I’m proud that they valued my service and competence. At this point in my life, I want to give back. I’m thinking of going into the lay ministry, and know that you are experienced in this field. I’d just love to find out more information from your perspective.”
Now, Clarke had turned a depressing message into an effective networking statement and question.
- How well would you and I connect to what I want or need?
- Would you share information that’s relevant to me and to our purpose in meeting?
Sharing relevant information is important. Before a job interview, think through what the hiring manager needs and share information about your background that supports that.
In preparing for networking meetings, think through what that person needs to know to be able to give you information or advice, to understand your background, and know that you’re a good guy or gal.
- Do you have a sense of what’s happening in my life, or what inspires me?
Beforehand, think about potential objections an employer might have about hiring you; be ready to speak to them. Consider what could make them hesitant, such as your fit with their culture, your motivation to change, whether you’re committed when this job pays less.
In a networking meeting, acknowledge the fact that the person’s time is valuable and that you appreciate their taking time to meet with you.
- Do you come across as genuine? Or are you busy trying to impress me in some way?
Don’t exaggerate your background by saying you’ve done things you haven’t; or say you know more about a topic than you really do. If you’re moving into a new career, show your enthusiasm and your humanness. “After years of being a stay-at-home mom – which I loved – I’m so excited to put my accounting background back to use. I’m primed and ready!”
People see through insincerity. Don’t schmooze them. For example, if you wish to meet with a network contact you have not touched base with in years, acknowledge your part in not keeping in touch. And if they agree to talk, make sure you keep the relationship going from that point on.
I guarantee that if you ask people what made them hire one person or another; or meet with someone they didn’t know; their answer will typically frame around something hard to nail down. It was just the way they felt about you!
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