Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Friday, October 3, 2014
Fantastic question! I would go into these types of networking meetings with a few clear objectives:
1) Learning in-depth info about the person: e.g. their current role, their career path, their academic background, etc. (you should already have done some homework via their company site and LinkedIn, to get an idea of who they are and what they are all about)
2) Receiving career-related advice from the person: e.g. suggestions regarding where and how best to network for this field, recommended places to volunteer, additional people to connect with, books or research to explore, events to attend, ongoing education to pursue, associations to join, etc.
3) Demonstrating your ambition, passion, and potential: e.g. your hard skills, your soft skills, how you can leverage your experience and academic qualifications together, what excites you, and your ability to be flexible, reliable, and independent. Showcase what will be most relevant to their interests, and what will most clearly relate to their industry.
*Caveats: I would not recommend going into a meeting like this and directly asking for a job up front. I would instead start by thanking the person profusely for their valuable time, and their expertise. Make sure they know you really appreciate this opportunity, and that you are prepared. Understand exactly how much time they have set aside for you, and keep to this time frame. Be respectful if they tell you they have a hard-stop after 60 minutes, for example.
Don’t be afraid to ask if their company is hiring, or if they have an internship program, but do so a little ways into the conversation, after you both have had a chance to get to know one another. The purpose of this meeting is to not only find out if they may have a job for you, but more importantly, to begin to develop your professional circles. This meeting may lead you to other decision-makers and hiring teams, even if this person in particular does not have something immediately available.