Asking questions is the most vital part of the learning experience. As a seasoned veteran in any industry, or someone just starting out, there is never a level where learning is finished or there isn’t more to absorb.
Networking enables people to learn while also teaching others. Once considered a one-way path where someone with more experience gave advice to someone with little to none, networking is now a full-fledged social event, with information shared on both sides.
It’s important to remember what exactly networking is. It doesn’t just happen at recruiting events or job interviews.
One of the biggest mistakes networkers can make is going into a conversation with the mindset of: “What can this person do for me?” The question instead should be: “What can this person teach me?” The contrast may seem simple, but the ideas are vastly different. Networking is not a guaranteed job or meeting, but rather an opportunity for knowledge to be gained, and an opportunity to make personal and professional connections.
Networking gives go-getters the chance to learn firsthand, to connect with others in similar positions or leaders of dream internships and industries. Although networking can seem daunting with slightly awkward small talk and tongue-tied moments, with some prepared questions and a set goal in mind, success is imminent.
Questions are important during these events, but remaining relaxed and open is key too. Don’t get too into your head focusing on what to ask next or how to jumpstart a conversation. Trying too hard can be obvious, while being yourself is just as effective and authentic. It’s impossible to prepare for every conversation or potential run-in, so trust your gut and go for what feels right in the moment. When it comes down to it, you are your biggest asset.
How did you initially get your start in the industry?
Everyone has a starting point in life, even if it’s a small one. Networking events often have attendees wear name tags or share a small amount of information about themselves beforehand, including their current profession. Although listening to what someone does now is important, hearing how he or she got there can be just as eye-opening. Take note of someone’s journey – especially if you’re just starting out – as his or her path may be more similar to yours than you imagined.
What do you enjoy the most about what you do?
Get to the root of why your new connection really loves his or her job. Was it always what they wanted to do? This gives you the time to listen to a typical day in the industry as well as a sneak peak into how he or she decides to tackle the day. It may also give you the opportunity to hear the challenges of their role and what they don’t enjoy doing.
What else do you aspire to do in life?
Everyone has a dream. Often, those in high demand or driven careers become defined by the time spent behind a computer or out in the field. In reality though, it isn’t our jobs that define us, but what we actually want to do that grants the most insight into who we are.
Be sure to pay attention during these conversations and show a genuine interest in speaking with each person. Although one person’s job or internship experience may not line up exactly with what you desire to do, they may have a connection of their own to pass along at the end of your conversation. Remember, networking can happen at any time, and each person you meet could be your next great connection.
Have you had a great networking experience that you would like to pass on to others? Do you have any networking tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below!