I’ll never forget my first informational interview. I didn’t come prepared. I sputtered out random questions. I didn’t take notes. And I didn’t send a follow-up note or email. I did almost everything wrong! Except one thing: I learned from my mistakes. I learned to ask better questions. I learned to research the person sitting before me. I learned how to craft an awesome thank you email. But most of all, I learned not to give up.
Here are five questions to ask during any coffee chat, networking event or informational event that are sure to get you results.
1. Tell me about your journey
People love to feel important. They love to share their story. The love to feel important. So, shine the spotlight on them. Begin with this statement: Tell me about your story. How did you get here? Then, sit back and soak it in. You won’t need to say much after this. Just listen and nod and ask a question here or there.
2. The three greatest attributes I need to be in this field are…
I started asking this question a few years ago and am still amazed by the answers I get. I’ve heard things like passion, patience, curiosity, discipline, drive, a thick skin, willingness to work alone. But one thing I’ve yet to hear: talent. A high IQ. Popularity. Money. Nope. Because those things don’t matter. Being persistent. Being polite. Chasing that dream. Those are the things that matter.
3. What do I need and what can I do without?
When I started freelancing, I was convinced I needed a website, a logo, business cards, a laptop and a business checking account. Wrong! I didn’t launch my website, print business cards or hire a designer to create my logo until I was a couple years into my business. My brother gave me his old laptop. I didn’t have an office; I sat at our kitchen table or I stood with the laptop on a ledge, holding my four-month-old in the Ergobaby. Here’s what I really needed: A vision, a long-term goal. That doesn’t mean I needed to know how I was going to get there; I just needed to know the what and the why. I needed time, everyday, to write. I needed clients to work for and projects to work on. This meant taking any job that came my way. Sometimes, this even meant working for free.
4. What is one thing I can do today?
Sometimes I leave a networking meeting feeling completely overwhelmed. For an hour, I sat and listened to this experienced, successful, thriving freelancer. It was easy to feel inundated with information. So, by focusing one simple task, I eliminate that feeling of spinning my wheels. Sometimes it’s as simple as checking out a book or trying a new writing exercise or visiting a blog.
5. Who else can I talk to?
This might be the most important question to continue growing your network. Never leave an interview without asking this one nugget. And if they can’t suggest a person, ask for a book, blog, podcast…anything that will help you grow your knowledge and awareness.
What am I missing? What do you ask when networking?