Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The First Date

Your phone buzzes, and yes, you got a response from that online dating inquiry. “Sweet, now what do I do?  Do I text back right away?  Maybe I should wait a few so I don’t seem too eager, wait, or maybe he/​she will think I’m ignoring him/​her?”

We have come to the most exhil­a­rating and fright­ening part of our journey down the dating/​networking path: the first date.

The first date, full of mys­tery and anx­iety… luckily in the net­working world, it’s a little more straight for­ward. Unlike dating, if the person you requested to infor­ma­tional inter­view writes you back, you should respond promptly. Keep in mind, they’re doing you a favor, limit the back and forth sched­uling emails. If they sug­gest a time/​place, try to accom­mo­date them, if that time/​place doesn’t work, suggest a couple alter­na­tives. Do the work. I can speak from expe­ri­ence, it’s annoying going back and forth five times trying to schedule a meeting with some­body with whom you’ve never met.

“So this weather we’re having…” Get­ting ready.

You’ve set the time and loca­tion, now it’s time to get ready. It’s going to be slightly awk­ward, just accept it — they’ve already agreed to meet you, so you’ve got that going for you (you go Glen Coco).

"Uhh..." image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

Uhh…“
image source: http://​giphy​.com/​g​i​f​s​/​5​B​m​S​h​f​Y​6​b​q​Ovm

Let’s start with the con­ver­sa­tion prep. It is essen­tial that you pre­pare ques­tions to ask. Again, they’re doing you a favor, so you need to go in there with mul­tiple con­ver­sa­tion starters. Sim­ilar to a date, we want to avoid as many awk­ward silences as pos­sible. You always know that it was at least a decent date if you left having good con­ver­sa­tion– the same goes for the ini­tial infor­ma­tional inter­view. People, as a whole, love talking about them­selves, so asking ques­tions about their career path, their cur­rent posi­tion and what their suc­cess tips are is always a good way to start. It’s an easy way to break the ice and con­nect with them. Sim­ilar to a first date, you want them to like you and feel a con­nec­tion (or dare I say, a spark), so that down the line they feel com­fort­able rec­om­mending you to their supe­riors and/​or think of you when a job opens up. Feel free to answer their ques­tions as well– this is a two way street, and you need not pre­tend you’re not looking for a posi­tion if asked, but NEVER ask them for a job- it’s rude and they may not be in a posi­tion to offer you one. Cue the super awkwardness.

Let’s talk about dress, baby.

First rule of thumb, what­ever you do, don’t roll in to the meeting looking like a slob-​​ka-​​bob. First impres­sions matter. I once went on a date where the guy showed up in a base­ball hat and gym shorts. Glad you cared enough to dress up.  Know your industry. If we go back to the Google example from last week, you prob­ably don’t need to rock your designer suit, but looking like you care about the meeting and you put some effort into your appear­ance is impor­tant. If you’re info inter­viewing some­body that works in a pro­fes­sion where suits are com­mon­place– wear a suit.

Addi­tional tid-​​bits.

These are the things you learn only through expe­ri­ence. One, don’t show up too early, but don’t show up late. If you are going to be late, send a quick email, just like you would send a text to your date.

Two, once you’ve hit the des­ig­nated time marker, stop talking. If you asked for twenty min­utes, but are having awe­some con­ver­sa­tion, stop at the twenty minute mark and say some­thing along the lines of, “We’re just about at 20 min­utes, I don’t want to take up much more of you’re time, I’m sure you’re really busy.” Let the employer deter­mine if they can stay and chat longer.

Three, isn’t nice when get a lovely text mes­sage after your date that says some­thing along the lines of, “hey, I had fun, let’s get together again soon”? Super sweet right? Same goes for after you have an infor­ma­tional inter­view– send a thank you email and let them know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. We have sam­ples on our site.

image source: http://giphy.com/

image source: http://​giphy​.com/

Finally, keep the goodbye as normal as pos­sible. The dating world makes good­byes uncom­fort­able and weird and I hon­estly believe that it has scarred our inter­ac­tions with others. Ask for a busi­ness card, say “thank you for your time”, and finish off with a firm hand­shake. That is all.

Just like dating, some inter­views will be good, and some will be eh. Being pre­pared and making a good impres­sion will set you up for future success.

Do you like mind games? Because next week we’ll be dis­cussing the Courtship.

What advice do you have for those con­ducting infor­ma­tional inter­views? Are there any other par­al­lels you can pull from going on a first date?

Kelly Scott is Assis­tant Director of Career Devel­op­ment and Social Media Out­reach at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. A social media enthu­siast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about work­place cul­ture and per­sonal online branding. For more career insight, follow/​tweet her at @kellydscott4.