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3 Questions To Network Effectively

Network Effectively

A lot of young professionals struggle with networking, and many who believe they are networking are likely not networking effectively. The word “networking” can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be as formal of a conversation as the word might suggest. I’ve found that some of my most effective networking conversations have been over casual coffees or phone calls where we bond over things that aren’t always directly related to work. If you’re looking to network more effectively and ask questions that will leave people with a good impression of you, try these 3 questions the next time you’re networking (for a job or for general knowledge).

  1. What is your ideal candidate?

This question is a win-win for both parties involved. By asking this question, the person you’re networking with (whether you’re asking for a job or trying to learn more about their role) may catch that you want to determine if their values align with yours and may respect that you have the confidence to ask that. That person may also like that you’re being thoughtful and asking about an ideal candidate rather than simply asking them, “How do I get a job at your firm?” At the same time, the person’s answer will be very helpful for your decision making, especially if you’re looking to start your career or make a major move. If the ideal candidate sounds like you or someone that you want to work towards becoming, that company or role could be a great fit. If it doesn’t, or you can’t identify or align with the values in their answer, it’s something you can consider when weighing the pros and cons of different industries, companies, and roles.

  1. Where do you see the industry headed in the next 5-10 years?

Even if you are familiar with the industry of the person you’re talking to, asking this question shows that you’re a forward thinker. Too often young people get stuck asking questions in networking conversations about current deals in the pipeline or how the market is looking currently. Asking about the future shows that you have a long-term mindset (which is especially helpful for investing and similar roles) and are intellectually curious. The person answering your question will appreciate that you want to hear their thoughts on how the industry might evolve. This is also to showcase any knowledge of future trends that you may have.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Simply put, this question shows the person you’re networking with that you care about people other than yourself. Everyone loves to talk about themselves! When you ask this question, you give the other person an invitation to reflect on their own experiences, successes, and mistakes. In doing so, they can give you invaluable advice about what they did that worked, what they would have avoided if they had known better, and pieces of wisdom that otherwise wouldn’t have come up in your conversation.

Some of the most helpful tidbits of information and guidance I’ve gotten through networking has been through asking this question. The responses have ranged from (including but not limited to):

  • I recommend exploring activities outside of your comfort zone
  • I would say the best thing you can do in college is pick a few activities you like, take on a leadership role, and use the interpersonal and technical skills you learn from that for the rest of your career
  • I wish I would have pursued a field of study that I was truly passionate about, as what I studied wasn’t directly applicable to my career
  • I would not underestimate the importance of getting to know my peers on a more personal level


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