Whether you just started a new job or find yourself at a career based event, one of the best things you can do is network with other people. This will help you get an inside look to a company or the daily tasks of a current employee, and building your network will help you a lot throughout your career. Don’t forget, the more you practice, the easier it will get! We’ll even give you some of the best questions for networking to give you a headstart. So, let’s get into why networking is important and what kinds of questions you can ask so you can get the most out of it.
Before we get into why it’s important, what exactly is networking? The purpose is to develop professional and lasting relationships with others. Whether you meet people during an internship or job or are standing in line with them waiting for your coffee – the possibilities to build your professional network are endless. You can reach out to people on LinkedIn, or meet them at an internship—the opportunities to meet other professionals are endless. Whether it is a formal conversation set up to talk “shop” or a simple connection through friends, it’s all networking!
So, why should you network? People who have a substantial professional network are usually more successful in their careers. Let’s say you started a summer internship and networked with some people in leadership positions within the company. Down the road, they might have an opening on their team or even started a new job somewhere else, and this could help you take the next step in your career in a new role. Networking is also a great way to stay informed about an industry or to just learn in general. Often, these people will have a lot of experience, and this can be extremely helpful to you. Especially if you aren’t sure what your career path is yet. Sometimes when working, it’s easy to get caught up in training. Networking is an informal and more relaxed way to learn. You can also earn some significant brownie points with your manager. The person you spoke with might send them an email regarding how well the conversation went, and you can impress your manager with all of your new knowledge. This initiative will show that you’re a go-getter and serious about your job.
As with most conversations, networking doesn’t always go as planned. So, it is important to prepare with some networking questions. Think about what you want to get out of this conversation. What kind of role do they have? Have they worked for other organizations and have a lot of experience? Taking the time to prepare and ask these questions to yourself beforehand helps these conversations go a lot smoother, and it will allow you to get more out of it. You can’t always plan precisely how the conversation is going to go, so have about 3 to 5 questions ready in your back pocket. Chances are, once they start sharing their experiences and going into detail about their job responsibilities, you will have more questions to ask. If you’re confused about something, ask! Just let them finish what they’re saying first.
If you don’t have a lot of time to talk to this person—for instance, if you are at a job fair—ask specific questions rather than general ones. You can ask about what their internship or interview process is like. During networking events, it’s also a great place to ask for referrals of people you can talk to within the organization. Especially if you are at a college job fair, larger organizations usually have other events designed specifically for potential employees/recent college graduates.
When you’re networking one-on-one, keep in mind that they likely have a lot on their plate, so if the conversation was set for 30 minutes, keep it at 30 minutes. You probably won’t be able to ask every question that you’d like to, so you can always ask them to set up another time to chat in the future. After speaking with them, send an email thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. If you only have one or two more questions that can be easily answered via email, you can put those questions in that too. However, if you met with this person more than twice, you might want to consider writing a physical thank-you note. This will impress them, and they will be more likely to help you in the future. Don’t forget, write down their contact information for the future, and connect with them on LinkedIn!
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