Networking Tip #4: Listen and Ask Questions
Now, this tip can seem pretty obvious but, active listening is a learned skill.
It is the most important skill you can hone and acquire. Active listening involves reflecting your new connection’s feelings with appropriate statements like “In understand that feeling” or “that sounds like a challenging time.” Minimal encouragers can also work but do not necessarily mean that you can get by on a sprinkling a few “right” and “mhmm” here and there.
Active listening is the processing and appreciation of what your new connection is saying. Often during informational interviews, I am ready with my laptop or pen and paper to take notes.
Taking notes assures that you grasp what they are saying and also allows you to reflect on the conversation after the fact so that you can refer and build upon it in later appointments with your new connection.
Below are a few key questions to ask a new connection separated by goals outlined in Networking Tip #1:
Goal 1: Learn how to navigate the current situation
(Explain your goal) What would you do in my position?
(If you are interested in their industry, field, company) How has the pandemic affected your (industry, field, company)?
How are you navigating the current change in work-life balance?
Goal 2: Find career-advancing opportunities
If you were in my position, what would you do in order to continue to advance your career?
What skills did you have as an entry-level candidate?
What skills do you think are becoming more in-demand in your industry/field?
Goal 3: Find a job or internship
What was your first job position?
What type of opportunities do you think I should be looking for?
Do you know of any (job or internship) opportunities (available or that will grow in demand)?
Additionally, try not to structure your informational interviews too much.
If you find that there are questions that come up for you or you didn’t get a chance to weave them into the conversation organically, then you can set up another appointment with your new connection to ask them. Don’t worry about squeezing everything into one conversation. Relationships take time and the more time you dedicate to nurture a relationship, the more rewarding it will be for both of you.