Making connections and networking is one of the best actions you can take if you want to further your career.
Make no mistake, networking and meeting strangers can be intimidating. However, you can become an networking expert through learning different networking and communication tips.
By understanding what networking is, how you can apply networking, and questions to ask during an informational interview, you will be on your way to furthering your career.
In this post, you will learn the following:
- What is Networking?
- Why is Networking Important?
- How to Successfully Network and Different Ways You Can Network
- Networking Myths
- What are Informational Interviews and How You Can Use Them to Grow Your Network
- Common Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview
Let’s get into the career networking tips!
What is Networking?
Networking for a job is going out in the world and meeting people in your industry. Networking involves sparking a conversation with someone in your industry, and through this conversation, you can learn more about their work and company.
People love to talk about themselves, and I believe, people genuinely want to help others.
Networking is about building relationships, and should be viewed as a learning opportunity. When networking, you don’t want to be pushy or try too hard to impress.
Instead, going in with an open mind and looking to make a friend and ally is the goal.
People want to work with their friends, and if the fit makes sense, through networking, you could land an interview with the company you are interested in.
Why is Networking Important?
“Your network is your net worth.”
“Your network is your net worth” is common phrase which is thrown around when you are in the workplace. What does this statement even mean?
Let me answer that question by asking another: has there ever been a time when you needed a favor done for you, and you knew exactly the person who could provide guidance and help?
If so, you likely told them that you needed help and they supplied the solution. They were happy to help because they were your friend and people like to helpful.
Even if this person wasn’t necessarily a friend of yours, more experienced people tend to enjoy the process of mentoring up-and-coming professionals in their field as a way to “pay it forward” for the mentorship they received early in their career.
How many times have you heard this story: “I interned at company XYZ and after the internship, I was hired.”?
During the internship period, those people gained the trust of the people at the company and showed their work ethic. They became an asset that the company could not afford to let go.
In both examples, having a strong network proved to be extremely beneficial because of the opportunities to leverage those connections into greater income.
Who should I be networking with?
Figuring out who you should be networking with is a tough question. The possibilities are endless with networking, and you could look to invite the whole world into your social circle.
However, with limited time and money, maybe it would be good to focus on your goals and network with people who could be valuable in getting to those goals.
Who are all the people who have influenced your life? Maybe some of these influential people include:
- Previous relationships that you have moved on from
- Teachers and bosses
- People in the industry you want to work in
Everyone has experiences and perspectives that are different from your own, and odds are they’d be willing to share their knowledge with you. You don’t know what you don’t know, and asking questions can be the quickest way to identify gaps in your own awareness.
A best practice I’ve found is to figure out what goals you want to hit, skills you want to learn, or achievements you want to replicate, and seek out people who have already done those specific things.
As they say, the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line.
After all, who better to guide you than someone who has found success in doing exactly what you’re looking to do yourself?
3 Reasons Why Networking is Important for Your Career
Networking is one of the most important things you can do to improve the trajectory of your career.
The main three reasons why networking is critical for your career success are the following:
- The power of connection during interviews
- A better understanding of the industry and goals of different companies
- A better understanding of the industry jargon
How Networking Can Lead to a Great Interview
Networking can lead to great interviews if you’ve made connections with the right people.
Imagine yourself in an interview.
Let’s say the interviewer was a coworker with one of the people you have networked with. This commonality you can ask and talk about with the interviewer – it will show you likable, active and could be a good hire.
For example, Linkedin is an immensely powerful tool for young adults.
The ability to see the job history of employers is hugely beneficial! Use it, it is free!
In addition, this readily-available information can be used to form a personal connection with interviewers or potential mentors at any point in your career.
For me, networking has been incredibly beneficial for my career. What is crazy, is through networking, I have received in-person interviews by just emailing the correct person.
By being proactive and taking initiative, I have skipped over the online applications and jumped to the front of the line by knowing the right people.
I didn’t always get an offer, but if your goal is to get interviews, spreading a wide net can only increase your chances!
Another tactic is to find a point person in your department who has an extensive network of contacts, and constantly ask for emails and phone numbers of professionals to converse with to gain the trust of workers in the industry.
How Networking Can Help You Understand Your Industry
Another reason why networking is so important for your career is how it can help you understand your industry.
Networking increases your understanding of what your industry has to offer.
During my job hunt, I spoke with people from all over my area in all different financial positions.
I talked to analysts, bankers, managers, traders, and looked to get insight into what each of these roles would entail.
By doing so, I could get an understanding of what I would like to do.
Reach out to people in the industry who you think would be interesting to speak with to get an understanding of what goes on day to day at various companies in your prospective field.
How Networking Can Help you Learn Industry Jargon
Similar to the last point, networking can help you understand the industry jargon used in the jobs you are looking to get.
Through networking, you can get a feel for the common lingo in your profession.
Have you ever walked up to other individuals talking about what they do and have no idea what they are saying? How do you begin to understand?
When you talk to experts in a field, they will know when you are spewing nonsense, and when you are knowledgeable in your studies.
By understanding what language the people in the industry use, the more knowledgeable you can make yourself sound when you go for an interview.
Now that you understand these reasons why networking is so important, we can move on to some strategies for networking.
Networking is a numbers game, the more contacts you have, the more your knowledge will grow and the more confident you will be. With increased awareness and confidence, going to the interview will be a piece of cake because of networking.
How many people do you think know and have a relationship with the President of the United States? Do you think that the President could have achieved election without having an extremely strong and extensive network?
This is our networking goal: to grow and obtain meaningful relationships to have a successful future.
How to Successfully Network to Make New Connections
Networking is incredibly important, but make no mistake, can also be very intimidating.
It’s scary to put yourself out there, and it’s possible you won’t always know the best ways to connect with others.
In this post, we’ve talked about why networking is very important, but haven’t touched on how to network.
If you goal is to grow your network and meet like-minded individuals who are on a similar path as you, there are a few different ways you can network:
- Look for Opportunities to Branch Out in Your Existing Network
- Find Groups of People Who Share Your Interest
- Find a Mentor
Let’s go into detail on each of these successful networking strategies.
Look For Opportunities to Branch Out in Your Existing Network
Sometimes the best networking opportunities can exist in your existing network.
When you are just starting out on your networking journey, it can be tough. However, asking around for the contact information of people who could help can be a decent first step to meeting more people.
By asking people close to you if they know of anyone in the industry or area you are interested in, you can have a better chance at connecting for coffee or a phone call, vs. a cold email.
Network With Groups of People Who Share Your Interest
A way to meet a many people at once who share a common interest is to join a group or going to meet-ups.
Joining a group of like-minded individuals and professionals will increase your exposure to new ideas, and lead to meeting more people.
When meeting people who share a similar interest, you’ll have an instant commonality which should help conversation.
You can find these groups through searching Google or Facebook.
Finding A Mentor to Improve Your Network
Another way to improve your network is to find a mentor, or someone who can help you one-on-one get to the next step.
When networking, it’s incredibly important to look to provide value and be a servant in your interactions.
A mentor could be a great help to you and career, but it will take work from your side, as people have limited time.
An example of a mentor could be someone who is doing research, and needs help with data preparation and analysis. You will get exposure to real world experience and develop a great connection, while your mentor will be reaching their goals.
When networking and growing your network, the biggest thing is putting yourself out into the world and looking to provide value to others.
After getting in touch with people who you want to talk to, the next step is performing informational interviews.
How to Use Informational Interviews to Grow Your Network
Are you looking to learn more about a company or a position in your industry? Are you looking to learn more about someone’s job or figure out if a profession is right for you?
Performing an informational interview is a terrific way to gain insight and knowledge into the inner workings of your field.
Informational interviews are just conversations to improve your knowledge on a subject.
Successfully performing an information interview might seem intimidating, but it’s really not hard with the right strategy.
How to Successfully Perform an Informational Interview
Success originates from the relationships you form in the world. Surrounding yourself with amazing people is critical for getting to where you want to go.
Informational interviews are just conversations. If you can ask questions and listen, you can perform an informational interview.
The first step in performing an informational interview is finding out who you want to talk to.
This is accomplished by talking with professors, mentors, and advisers (as we discussed above). These people have connections within their field and can give meaningful input into helping you find interesting people to have conversations with.
After identifying who it would be beneficial to talk to, you must get the contact information of that person. Email is often the easiest way to establish contact with someone for the first time.
After reaching out to the person, give them some time to respond.
If they don’t respond soon, they might be busy, so that’s a good reason to contact several people at once. That way, you’re not stuck spinning your wheels waiting for one person to reply.
People want to share their experiences with others and love to talk about themselves, so most of the time they will be happy to meet up.
How to Script an Email for an Informational Interview
Make no mistake, without the right script or template, it can be hard to take the first step in contacting someone you don’t know. If you don’t know how to email potential informational interviewers, below is an example of an email I’ve sent out to professionals I wanted to talk to:
Subject Line: From Erik, (Friend/Adviser/Mentor/Professor’s Name) suggested I reach out to you
Dear Mrs./Mr. (Last Name),
My name is Erik and I am a (insert major/position/friend) at (insert school/company/website). I am interested in your work in the field of (insert field) and was hoping to gain information on what you do and other opportunities.
(Friend/Adviser/Mentor/Professor’s Name) told me that you had an interesting career path and (he/she) said that it would be beneficial for me to meet you to learn more.
I am flexible and can meet you at your convenience. Attached is an example of some of my work for some more information about myself.
Looking forward to hearing back from you!
(Attach resume, website URL, or LinkedIn Address)
After sending out this email and waiting for a response, you can then work on setting up your informational interview.
How to Set Up an Informational Interview
After sending your email to your new connection, you should wait for their response before going forward.
The main thing that I want to stress is meeting them at their convenience.
Choose a meeting place that’s as close as possible to where they work, and ask for only as much time as you need to get your questions answered.
Your mentor is taking time out of their busy day and life to meet with you. They don’t need to do this, but many will because they want to give back to the community.
After setting up the informational interview, research the person and figure out the questions that you want to ask. When the day of the interview comes, just go to the scheduled location, and learn about the other person! It is as easy as that!
Finally, don’t forget to offer them something in return for their time, even if all you can offer is a coffee or lunch. There must be some sort of mutual benefit!
Many people love to talk about themselves. Use this to your advantage during an informational interview.
By performing an informational interview, you will gain valuable information and have a better command of what the happenings are on a day to day basis in your prospective industry.
Common Questions to Ask When Performing an Informational Interview
Below is a list of questions that will enable you to perform an informational interview successfully. By asking these questions, you will be able to gain greater insight into your prospective field.
These common informational interview questions are categorized in the following way:
- Informational interview questions about a person’s job
- Informational interview questions to understand skills necessary for success
Let’s get into these informational interview question lists.
Common Informational Interview Questions about a Person’s Job
Below is a list of common informational interview questions you can ask someone about their job.
- Tell me about your path to your current position?
- What specifically interested you about this field?
- What is do you enjoy most about working in this field?
- Tell me about your current job.
- What does a typical workday look like at (insert company)?
- What do you enjoy most about the company that you work at?
- How is the workplace structured?
- What challenges do you face daily as a (insert position of the interviewee)?
- Are there any other challenges do you face?
- Are there any negatives of your job?
You should use these job related informational interview questions if you are looking to learn more about a specific job or function in a company.
Common Informational Interview Questions about Necessary Skills for Success
Below is a list of common informational interview questions you can ask someone about the skills they believe are necessary for success.
- What innovations and technologies do you use on the job?
- What skills do you use at work? (This could be programming languages, software packages, social skills, communication skills, critical writing skills, etc.)
- Which of these skills would be valuable for me to research and practice to help me in the future?
- What skills are employers in this field looking for their candidate to bring to the table?
- (Which skills are considered the most cutting-edge and in-demand?)
- What skills are employers in this field looking for their candidate to bring to the table?
- What am I am not currently doing that could attract employers, or grow my understanding of the way that companies in my field do business?
- How do you stay current in this field, i.e. do you read papers, learn new techniques, build new models, read professional publications?
- Do you suggest any of these that I could start looking into so I can familiarize myself with the market and various companies?
- Are you aware of any opportunities at your company?
- Are there any other people you would recommend that I get in touch with to speak about their experiences?
- Anything else I should know?
These skills related questions are important when looking to learn more about an industry or company. After getting answers to these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of what you are looking to learn.
The Importance of Questions for Informational Interviewing
Questions are incredibly important for having good conversations, and asking good and thoughtful questions will be very beneficial for a successful informational interview.
By using the questions above in your informational interview, your informational interview will be a piece of cake, and you will be much more knowledgeable as a result.
Your network will grow and the professionals you meet will not dismiss you as someone less knowledgeable.
The people you meet will see a motivated professional, hungry for knowledge. The professionals in your industry are full of insight and willingness to give back. They will be open to answering these questions and giving you information so that you can make an informed decision into what business and field you want to find a career in!
By performing informational interviews, you will be seen as a motivated individual who is hungry for knowledge. Employers love self-starters want to learn about their industry and don’t just to want to show up and receive a paycheck.
How to Follow-up After an Informational Interview
After performing your informational interview, you can be courteous and follow up with a thank you email.
If you need to follow-up on anything, or ask any additional questions, you can do this in the thank you email.
By being respectful and courteous throughout the entire informational interview and networking process, you’ll create a lasting impression and connection for the future.
4 Networking Myths
When you start networking, you’ll hear some common misconceptions and myths. These networking myths are important to be aware of so you don’t fall into any mental traps:
- Introverts can network just as effectively as extroverts
- While many people think extroverts are experts at networking, introverts can be just as good.
- By asking thoughtful questions and focusing on one-on-one interactions, introverts can build a strong network.
- Quality is better than quantity when networking
- Getting a meeting with the CEO of a company might sound amazing for your career, but the odds of making a meaningful connection probably will be low.
- Likewise, meeting hundreds of people and only talking for a short time will not be great for growing your network.
- Instead, look to make quality and strong connections. Quality is more important than quantity in most areas of life.
- Networking is not all about politics, and can result in meaningful relationships
- If you think networking is for people who are obsessed with power, think again. Anyone can find value from networking, and if you think it’s all about you, then think again.
- Successful networking comes from being a SERVANT and providing VALUE to the person you are looking to meet and learn from.
- Diving into the details and being authentic is the key to networking
- Small talk rarely leads to anything of substance in any conversation. Go deep with your questions and discussions!
By avoiding these networking myths and understanding how to successfully network, you’ll be on your way to improving as a person and growing your network.
Grow Your Network with Successful Networking and Informational Interviews
In this post, we discussed everything you need to know about networking and informational interviews. We touched on what is networking, networking myths, how to perform an informational interview and common informational interview questions.
With this information, you should have everything you need to know about networking.
By applying these networking techniques and strategies, you’ll be on your way to growing your network, becoming more valuable and also hopefully making more money.
Hopefully this post has been beneficial for you during your networking.
Readers: do you have any tips on networking I missed? What questions do you have about networking? Do you have some informational interview success stories to tell? I’d love to hear about these successful interviews!