How to Open and Close Networking Conversations
Networking is the most important thing you can do during a job transition — and from first impressions to final words, the way you go about it matters. The key is to identify, capitalize on and grow your network so that you have a large team of people assisting with your transition. Using the right conversational kick-off and wrap-up with new contacts can simultaneously deepen your relationships and expand your network.
Open with mutuality
Go into any networking conversation with the mindset that you are meeting this person to build a relationship for mutual gain — not to ask for favors. Start conversations with open-ended questions focused on the other party’s interests and insights.
For example, you could ask them to share a story about their professional achievements or area of specialty. If they know your work, consider inviting them to share insights about what they see you doing well or their advice about where you should be looking. If an opportunity to offer your support or resources arises, do so.
Close with an invitation
When you’re wrapping up, try phrasing your closing as an invitation for the other party to share resources if they’d like to — rather than a request for a job or another yes/no type of question. This approach offers a graceful exit for someone who is ready to disengage, while preserving an opening for further discussion. If they choose to offer an introduction to someone, you can rest assured that the gift is freely given.
Nurture ongoing conversations
The end of any first networking conversation should be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue, so keep in touch. Open the next conversation with the same spirit of curiosity and mutual benefit. While having a sizable transition team is important, your success ultimately rests on the quality of your relationships. Foster networks that expand naturally and organically by crafting relationships in which support flows both ways. Opening and closing strong will jumpstart that process, helping you close the gap between where you are now and your perfect-fit position.