The majority of folks landing new jobs today are doing so through networking and their existing networks. Tools like job boards, classified ads, job fairs, and blind mailings are useful, but there is nothing like good, old-fashioned networking—whether it’s in person or not.
The question is, “What are the best questions to ask of a new or renewed connection?” It depends on how well you know this person and how long you have had a relationship. For some friends and acquaintances, you do not need much guidance to get started—just ask from the heart. But if it is a new connection or a renewed contact, a little forethought is required. Here are my top 10 questions to ask new or renewed contacts if you are in the market for a new gig.
1. “How are you doing?” It is better to give than receive. So before you start “the ask” for yourself, inquire about the well being of the other person.
2. “How is your company?” Eliciting information about your connection’s own firm is likely to initially reveal how well or how little the person feels about their own organization. If the contact says good things, it’s a good sign and a good point of departure. If not, it may be a warning to steer clear.
3. “If you were me, how would you approach a job search in the (insert your own) industry?” Chances are your connection possesses some interesting and valuable perspective about your search (either for a new position or some inside knowledge about a particular industry). Anyway, people enjoy speaking about what they know. So ask! You may get some great insight.
4. “Would you please give me your advice?” Ask your contact what advice she or he would give to you given your current situation and desire to find a certain position in a given city, in a certain field, etc.
5. “Who else would you recommend I speak with?” Ask your connection if there are other folks that you should be in touch with or can contact. Chances are that your connection’s network may hold the key to your next gig or the person who can open a door or two.
6. “Would you be my mentor?” Ask your contact if she or he would be willing to serve as a mentor for you. We all need a mentor—a person who will get us through challenges and/or show us how he or she surmounted an obstacle. A mentor is also someone off of whom you can bounce ideas and questions and who will respond in a helpful, information-filled manner.
7. “What can I do for you?” Ask if there is anything you can do for your contact. Dividends await those who have an attitude of gratitude and always give back or pay it forward. A good deed never goes unrecognized. So if you can help a connection, by all means, do so!
8. “Can I add you to my network?” Invite your contact to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo, or your preferred social platform. Social platforms make it easy to get touch and stay in touch. You never need to update your connections because they are self-sustaining for the most part. And you can never have too many contacts. Remember, you need your contacts and they need you.
9. “Is there someone in my network who can be helpful to you?” You never know where the next opportunity may come from or what serendipity has in store for you. So always volunteer to make an introduction or to employ your network for the benefit of others. We are all on this earth temporarily, so let’s make the best of it for others as well as ourselves.
10. “How can I thank you for your counsel?” Thank your contact for her or his willingness to speak with you, to give you advice, and for taking out valuable time to support your job campaign and make you the beneficiary of their experience.
Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.