I’ve already shared in a previous post that I read so many career books that when I find one that’s funny and profane in equal parts, I can’t help but share the advice with you. Michael Laskoff is the author of a “survival guide for the recently unemployed” called Landing on the Right Side of Your A**. (Title redacted; this is a family friendly blog, after all.) His often hilarious advice is based on his own checkered career. He’s a graduate of Harvard Business School and has held several high profile jobs for companies like McKinsey & Company. He also wrote an employment column for Business Week Online.
His chapter on networking meetings contains some great advice. In typical Laskoff fashion, he tells you what makes you look dumb and tells you what he’s thinking while you look dumb. Here are his four tips for better networking meetings.
- Arrive with an agenda. Laskoff says that he’s sat through several uncomfortable meetings where the requestor had obviously used all his energy in getting the meeting and had not had any energy left to plan what to say once he got there. Laskoff says he tries to help out when the requestor is at a loss for words, but suspect other busy people will simply toss the jobseeker out on his ear. For the record, my experience has been that most people are too polite to toss anyone out. But I, too, have experienced an uncomfortable silence after opening the meeting with, “How can I help you today?”
- Do your basic research elsewhere. This is excellent advice. Laskoff says you should never waste time asking questions that you could answer yourself with a few minutes of internet research. You should never have to ask much about the person’s company or industry. If you sound unprepared, you’ll hurt the rest of your presentation, no matter how good it is. On the other hand if you ask smart questions based on your research, you’ll sound smart and worthy of more time.
- Don’t ask disrespectful questions. Laskoff says he’s heard some stunners, including “How much do you make?” I have never had anyone be quite that bold, so I’ve never had to drag out his uncouth response (“It’s none of your d*** business.”)
- Never ask for a job. This is obvious to anyone who has read my blog over the years, but it’s possible that some people are still more hopeful than strategic. Laskoff says (and I agree) that you should never have to make a pitch for a job. If you’re impressive enough, a smart person will be passing your information on to others in the industry whom he likes and respects. If you are obnoxious in the meeting, he’ll be passing your information on to people he hates.
Laskoff passes on other small etiquette gems as well. He suggests that you always reconfirm how much time your subject has for you that day. She may have initially promised you thirty minutes, but her schedule may have changed. Ask again how much time you will have together, and be prepared to edit your questions on the fly so you get the most important ones answered in the time you have.
He also recommends that you ask for more people you can speak to, based on the conversation you just had with your contact. Laskoff says that the most you can expect is one or two contacts, and you should consider that “a d*** good haul.” If you get more, they are bound to be weaker, so take your two and move on briskly.
Finally, Laskoff says, your thank you should arrive a few days after the meeting. He says that it should be timed to remind your contact who you are as much as it is to thank him or her. “Unless you’re stunning-looking or fascinating – and you’re probably neither – you can expect your contact to forget your existence in a few days or less,” he writes. A well-timed thank you can bring you top of mind again.
His advice for following up is spot on, and as usual, he presents it in easy to understand and execute steps. Laskoff is a funny guy, but he takes his career advice seriously. The combination makes for a great read.