10 Networking Questions to Make Real Connections

You need to be doing a lot more during networking activities than asking for business cards ad infinitum. Get to know the person behind the name and contact details. Pop these questions during your conversation and make that connection!

by Marella Castro, 15 September 2017

Listen twice more than you talk.

Contrary to popular belief, networking is not  a numbers game. More than meeting new people, it is about building relationships. These relationships can lead to opportunities, but only if you take the time to nurture them. If you jump at every opportunity to sell yourself, you’re doing it wrong. Listen to other people’s stories and find a way to add value to yourself from their perspective. It all starts by asking these good questions:

1. ‘What kind of work do you love doing?’
People have expressed their dislike upon being asked: “What do you do?” because it gives an impression that their work is all there is. Those who want to pursue their passions outside their day jobs will be happy that you went with this alternative. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they care about. It is much more satisfying to share the kind of work that drives them rather than the one which only pays the bills. 

2. ‘What made you get into this line of work/business?’
This question is a great way to hear about their personal journey. It tells you their motivations, and the source of their drive, which you can later tap into for deeper insights. The best part is when you see their eyes light up as they look back at those life-changing moments. 

3. ‘What has had the biggest impact on your career?’
With this you can know what kind of work inspires them (especially if they are in the arts). It can also give you leads to mentors and other influential people they know—with whom you may have the pleasure of being introduced to, if you play your cards right.  

4. ‘What projects are you working on right now?’ / ‘What is your next big goal?’
If want to know where they will be focusing their energies, this is a good question to ask. It also gives you an immediate tip of what’s hot and happening in their industry. If you don’t see yourself being part of it, give a referral to help them out. You can still propose a different collaboration on the side. 

5. ‘What is a skill you’d like to learn/enhance?’
This question is particularly useful for people who provide workshops or conduct trainings. It also gives you an idea of what other skills you might want to consider learning if you think their justification for it resonates with you. You can be study buddies!

6. ‘Where and when do your best ideas come to you?’
You can learn from their work habits by asking this one. Maybe there’s something you haven’t tried before. Follow up by asking “What are the best places to feel productive outside the office?”, and you’ve got yourself a venue for your next meet-up.

7. ‘How is the current economy impacting your business/company? What direction do you see the industry going toward over the next few years?’
Give them the opportunity to flex their industry knowledge muscles. This is the kind of information you get from on-the-ground research and will not likely appear on your typical search results. You’ll know how they look at the bigger picture. Points for having foresight and being in touch with others in the field as a community. 

8. ‘What’s the biggest challenge you faced in your career?’
Not only does this give you insight on the obstacles they have overcome, but it also gives you advice on what to do in a similar situation. Stories of success reveal much about the other person’s determination and the kind of experiences that makes one a stronger, better person. Great stuff to keep you inspired when you’re feeling down!

9. ‘How can I help you/your business?’

Unburden your new acquaintance by taking the initiative to help them first. This puts you top of mind and creates goodwill between you and your new acquaintance. People dread the whole networking thing because they don’t want to feel needy, when the right mindset is actually reaching out to help others even in a small way, without expecting anything in return. Those who are doing it right, know that returns come when they least expect it, at the opportune time.  

10. ‘Would you like to get together again soon over coffee/tea? I’d like to know more about your business and see if we can help each other.’
The best way to end your initial conversation is by agreeing to continue it some other time. Close in on that follow-up meeting before you part ways. Then all you have to do is finalize the time and date. Let them know how keen you are to support their professional endeavors and always think win-win!