During a phone conversation or in-person meeting

4 "Must Ask" Topic Areas
Ask about their career path
Share your interests/skills and ask about opportunities in their field
Ask about general job-search strategies
Ask for additional contacts and permission to use their name as a referral

Be polite and charming! Aside from the expected common courtesy, you never know who this person knows or what type of resource they may be for you in the future. Consider each person you talk with part of an ever-expanding network of contacts, and make a good impression in the hopes that the person will welcome you into their network as well.

Ask good, appropriate questions. You should expect to have about 10-15 questions ready to ask for a half hour conversation. You probably won't get to ask them all, and you will hopefully have other related questions during the conversation itself, but at least you will be prepared if the person provides only short answers. Here are some typical networking questions:

  • How did you get interested in and get your start in this work?
  • Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college (or at Wesleyan if you’re with an alum)?
  • What do you do in your job? What is a typical day? (What did you do yesterday, today, tomorrow?)
  • What is the necessary or recommended education or training?
  • How did college (Wesleyan) prepare you for this job?
  • What do you like and dislike about this job (organization)? Why? Do you find it exciting or boring? Why?
  • How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  • What are entry level opportunities?
  • What is the salary range, both entry level and higher? Is there a ceiling?
  • What are the prospects for advancement?
  • What are the different jobs in this field or organization?
  • What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
  • What position is best for learning as much as possible?
  • Is there any type of training program? What skills are necessary and what experience?
  • These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits, values). Where would they fit in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they fit in other organizations?
  • How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
  • Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and what is it? (Is it a people, service, or product oriented business?)
  • Can you suggest reading material that might give me further insight into this field (organization)?
  • Who else would you recommend that I speak to for advice?

Really listen to what the person tells you. Although you are actually in charge of the interview, you should be prepared to talk half of the time and listen the other half. If the person wishes to talk more, you will know that immediately. Just be prepared with things to talk about and have solid questions. Also, be prepared for the person to ask you about your interests and experiences -- they surely will.

Take notes. While it is important to maintain eye contact during in-person meetings, taking notes also demonstrates interest in what the person is saying. Make sure you write the person's name and the date on your notes so that you can refer back to them, either for your own purposes or when having a follow-up conversation with that contact.

Keep the conversation relatively short. Whether you are talking by phone or in person, respect that the other person has many demands on his/her time. If they are available or wish to give you more time than you have requested, they will let you know. Be aware of the time that has passed and when there is a break in the conversation near the end of the time you requested, thank the person and politely end the conversation. If you are meeting in person, ask the person for a business card so that you can send a thank you note.

Don't forget to say "Thank You"!!