Networking – what do I ask?

Networking is about making connections with people. These people could be from school, a part-time job, a friend of a family member, or somebody you met at a careers event.  Networking is not just about people who you have met face to face. Online social networking is also an important option to explore. There are Facebook groups for various professions and LinkedIn is also gaining popularity, so you can start to build up your network in a number of ways relatively quickly.

But, once you have made these contacts it can be difficult to know how they could help you and what you should be asking them! This will probably depend on what stage of your job search you are at.

If you are deciding what sort of career area might be right for you try the following sorts of questions:

  • What made you choose this career?
  • What is the biggest reward you get from your job?
  • What is the main reason people leave the job?
  • Can you describe some actual examples of the sort of activities that your job involves?
  • What is a typical day at work like for you?
If you are job hunting you could ask:
  • What background experience is useful and how do people typically obtain it?
  • Are there any particular types of experience or any courses that would be helpful to get into this area?
  • Where and how are vacancies advertised?
  • How did you get into this job?
  • How competitive is the job market?

If you are making applications or preparing for interviews the following questions could give you information to help you impress employers and show that you really understand the role and the industry you are applying to:

  • What are the most important current issues in this sector?
  • Looking at the next 5 years, what do you think the main challenges facing the industry will be?
  • Who are your major competitors?
  • What would you look for on someone’s CV?
  • What advice would you give to someone in my position?
You may decide that you know your contact well enough that it is appropriate to ask for favours. Make sure you consider this option carefully, as you don’t want to risk causing offence and risk loosing a potentially helpful person in your network.
  • Are there any opportunities for work shadowing / voluntary work with you?
  • Would it be possible to let me know if anything comes up which might be suitable for me?
  • Who else do you think it would be good for me to talk to?

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