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Your Network Contact - Their Ability to Absorb and Retain


One of the best lessons I learned in my finance career was "the details are important, just not to everyone".  As I worked with different audiences to present results, while I had a similar message (the results and the drivers were the same), the ability for them to first absorb and then to retain and act upon was all in the delivery.

The same can be said with our messaging in networking or interviews.  We all have started with the simple message and can drill down - which is a good start.  But as you move beyond the simple, consider what the person has the ability to absorb and retain.  It’s usually within those details that set you apart from other candidates.  The question is how to give them what they both can quickly absorb and then retain following your meeting when the real action happens. (See blog post “Where is Value Created in Networking” for the importance of the post-meeting period).

First, it still no more than 3 points.  Regardless of how important, your message is competing with many others, so pick your spot and give a message that is relative to what you are seeking your networking contact to do for you (e.g. make a connection, offer references, etc.). Your contact may have the ability to understand a good deal of your background, but allow them to ask for a broader scope.

Second, through lots of trial and error, I found a person's familiarity with a topic heavily influenced what was retained both initially and longer term.  Investing time to consider what they will be familiar with will help get your message across.  Given the action comes after the meeting, getting a message across that will stick is critical to success. These accomplishments serve as the proof points to the message (if you have examples you can share, even better) that a delivered as part of your pitch.

Writing in advance saves tons of time in prep.  I recommend you begin with the ‘Same Role, Same Industry” and then just simplify down. Again, remember as you simplify, think about what details (if any) are important to them.  Before the actual meeting, you can tweak the message based upon your contact's background.

A few thoughts about retention, the people with similar roles or industry will be able to recall you easier due to the shared experiences which create a firm anchor for future reference.  For my fellow finance or industry colleagues, I am amazed at how much we seem to retain about each other’s backgrounds because of those shared experiences.  Of course, the retention fades in time, but the big items do stick.  For HR, I’m not throwing their ability to retain under the bus.  This is simply a reflection of the volume of candidates, resumes, etc. they need to review in the course of their job, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to retain everyone.  The same is true for a general networking contact, they see lots of networking contacts.  For both, HR and general connection, they are more likely to remember you because of a ‘personal’ connection (same school, contacts, etc.) than what you promise to bring a company since the two of you lack a common work experience.  These are the people where follow-up is critical to reinforce the simple message given.

All networking is trial and error, use this chart as a place to start your messaging and then adjust as you test it out.  When in doubt, lean toward less than more.  A good short message is always safe and if people want more they will ask.

Good luck today.