Issue Date: May 7, 2012
Getting The Most From A Networking Conversation
If you’re searching for a job, building a strong network of contacts may be your most important strategy. It’s critical to connect with as many people as possible who are willing and able to provide you with job leads, resources, and other contacts.
As you establish new contacts, you’ll want to make the most of these opportunities. Toward that end, it’s important to treat every networking conversation as if it were a job interview. When searching for a job in industry, for example, you should prepare for these discussions by educating yourself about your contact’s job and business and by developing insightful questions to ask.
Prior to meeting with a contact in your network, you should research these three areas:
The industry, including current trends and main competitors, using business research sources, such as Standard & Poor’s (standardandpoors.com) and Hoover’s (hoovers.com), trade publications, and newsmagazines such as C&EN.
The company, including corporate strategy, structure, and performance, using sources such as annual reports, analysts’ reports, and news releases.
The person, including his or her background, experience, and interests, using the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network), Facebook, and LinkedIn. Take note of his or her job title, how long he or she has been in a company or role, and any significant career moves.
You can then develop questions aimed at drawing out the valuable information you need. The goal is to come away with new insights and leads to aid your job search.
Here are some questions you may want to ask during a conversation with a key contact:
Questions about your contact’s company:
How does this company differ from its competitors? Why do customers choose this company?
How would you describe this company’s culture?
How has the economy affected the company?
Why did you decide to work for this company? What do you like and dislike about working there?
Questions about your contact’s job:
What is your typical day like? What kinds of problems do you deal with?
What are your main responsibilities?
What kinds of decisions do you make?
What skills are most important to success in your field?
What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?
Questions about your contact:
How did you prepare for the position you have now? If you were starting out in your career today, how might you prepare differently?
What abilities and qualities are most critical to success in your job or field?
How does a person progress in your field? What is a typical career path in this organization or field?
Questions about how you might fit in your contact’s industry:
What are some typical entry-level job titles and functions within your field?
What advice do you have for someone pursuing a job in this area?
With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what are my strongest assets for landing a job in this area?
What other fields or jobs would you suggest I research?
For additional resources to help with your career planning, visit the ACS Careers website (www.acs.org/careers) and attend the ACS On-site and Virtual Career Fairs (www.acs.org/careerfair), which offer opportunities to build your network.
Get Involved in the Discussion
The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN and C&EN Online. The articles will also be posted on the ACS Network and the ACS Careers website, where you’re encouraged to get involved in the discussion. Tell us what you think about the articles and share your experiences. Also, let us know of topics you’d like us to address in future columns to help you and your colleagues achieve your career goals. You can reach us at email@example.com.
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