Our careers are built on getting meetings with the right people. A job interview, a meeting with a recruiter, a discussion with your boss, or a first encounter with a client—all these can propel you forward in your profession.
But getting that key meeting can be a challenge. People are seriously busy, and their knee-jerk response to your request often can be “Can it wait?” or “We’re not interviewing right now” or, more likely, just silence.
If you’ve had that happen, you know how frustrating it can be to get turned down or completely ignored. Here are five key things you can do to pitch your request for a meeting and ensure the best outcome for your career.
1. Sound worthy of their time
Often when we ask for someone else’s time, we may feel like we’re imposing, so we soften our language. The result can sound weak and self-effacing. For example, we might write in an email, “I’d be so grateful if we could meet,” or leave a voice mail saying “I’m wondering if you could take time out of your busy schedule to see me.” Or the request might begin: “I hate to bother you, but . . .”
Sure, you want to sound respectful, but you don’t have to sound apologetic. Instead, sound confident by being direct. Use language like “I’d like a meeting with you,” or “There is something I’d like to discuss with you,” or “I have an opportunity I’d like your views on.” This will set a good tone for your request.
2. Get to your point
No matter how you reach out, be sure to let the other person in on why you want the meeting. This is key: No one is likely to spend time with you unless you tell them in advance why.
Your “why” statement can be “I’ve heard about a job opportunity in your company, and I’d like your advice on whether this would be a good fit for me.” Or “I’m searching for my next position in advertising, and I’m sure you as a top recruiter will know of opportunities in various firms.” Or (to your boss) “I’d like to discuss what you envision as my next career goal.”
The point is to have a clear message about what you’d like to get out of the meeting.
3. Add specifics
After you’ve stated what you want, you need to give the other person a reason to believe in your goal. You can do this by elaborating on your point.
If you say you’re searching for your next position in the world of social media, expand upon that idea by showing what you’re looking for and what you’ve already done. If you want a career-defining meeting with your boss, tell her why you value her insights.
If your pitch is for a meeting with a prospective client, mention that you work with several other firms in that client’s industry. If you’re speaking with a recruiter, you might elaborate by sharing something about your accomplishments.
4. End with a call to action
End your pitch with a clear action statement, asking for the meeting.
A good rule of thumb is to be as specific as possible, so the other party will have to say “yes” or “no.” You might, for example, say “Shall we grab coffee at Starbucks later this week?” Another way of locking things in would be to say you’ll contact that person’s assistant to book a time. This works really well if you’re approaching an executive who wouldn’t likely get back to you but who has an assistant who oversees their calendar and will be responsive if you sound credible.
5. Don’t give up
Follow-through is everything! Thomas Edison once said: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.” This is great advice for anyone seeking to set up a meeting with a career influencer.
If that meeting is important to you, don’t give up, and don’t feel you’ll be a nuisance if you keep trying to find a way to book it. Think of it this way: This meeting is more important to you than it is to the person you’re seeking a commitment from. So persist.
Wait a week, then send a shorter email reminding them of your interest. Or try a phone call. You don’t want to hound them, of course, but if they see how much this meeting means to you, they’ll be more likely to accept.