Many clients of mine are not sure how to ask for and set up a networking meeting with someone they haven’t met.   Here are five things you need to include in a letter/email/phone call asking for a meeting:

1) Our Bond: Open your email/letter or phone call with your common bond. “Jane Smith suggested that I give you a call.” “I am a recent graduate of [school you have in common] trying to get my career in _______ off the ground.” “I’m considering a move to your area and ___ suggested that you would be able to fill me in on the ______________ industry in your region.”

2) I Need Your Help: The reason you want to meet with them is because they have information or knowledge that may be able to help you. They’re an expert in your field or they know a lot about what is going on in the industry or perhaps have lots of great contacts. “I’m looking for advice on transitioning from manufacturing to the health care industry. Jane mentioned that you made a similar transition several years ago and would have valuable information to share.”

3) A Little Bit about Me: Here is where you share a few details about your training and work experience. Just enough so they have a feel for your background to entice them to meet with you. “I have 15 years experience in process improvement in medical device manufacturing and I’m interested in learning how my skills would be perceived in a hospital setting.”

4) The Ask: This is where you ask for a 20 minute meeting to get their advice and suggestions. “To that end, I’d like to set up a 20 minute meeting to get your thoughts and suggestions”.

5) Closing: Keep it in your hands. Let them know that you’ll be following up in a few days to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet. “I will contact your office in the next couple of days to determine if we can find a convenient time to meet in the next few weeks. Thanks.”

Next Steps: Be sure to follow up when you said you will. If your initial contact was an email and they haven’t replied within a couple of days, call them to schedule a meeting. If you get voice mail, tell them you sent an email and are following up as promised. If they don’t call back, try another email or call their assistant if they have one. After 3-4 attempts, move onto someone else on your list.

The Meeting: You’re asking for the meeting, so you need to have an answer to the question “what can I do for you?” Tell them a little bit about yourself, what type of position you’re looking for and bring a list of questions to ask. If you’re hoping to shift to a different industry, ask them if your skills would be valued in that sector. Close the meeting by asking if there is anything you can do for them. You’d be surprised what can come out of that offer.

A Successful Networking Meeting Will Result In The Following:

• 3-5 names of other people with whom you can follow up. These people will probably not have job leads for you, but they may be one step closer to someone who will.
• 2-3 names of companies that might be a good fit for you.

Send A Thank You Note: After the meeting or phone call, send a thank you note. Email is okay, handwritten or typewritten snail mail works well too (if you have poor handwriting go with email or typewritten). Thank them for the names they provided and let them know who you plan to follow up with.

Follow Up On Your Leads: Be sure to follow up promptly with the names they provide!