While you may know that networking is crucial to your professional success, it can be difficult to bond with acquaintances at networking events. Small talk can only go so far; once you get past work, education, living arrangements, and the weather, you may be left wondering what to say next. Additionally, you may be wary of asking the wrong question about their job or home life. For example, you may want to avoid asking about politics, or if their company has open positions.
Even though you may feel the pressure to keep the conversation going, keep in mind that people usually enjoy talking about themselves. If you’re at a loss, some specific open-ended questions can give you excellent insight and make your new contact feel valued. Here are a few avenues that can give you a better understanding of their professional experience and allow you to listen and respond naturally:
Ask about their motivation
Even after learning where they’re from and where they went to school, you can delve further into your connection’s background by asking why they made certain decisions. By discovering their reasoning, you may learn more about their personality, and you may even better understand the reasons behind your own choices. As a result, you may find out that you have more in common than you originally thought. Here are a few questions that can give you a deeper appreciation of this person:
- Why did you get involved in…
- What made you decide to go to your school?
- How did you get your start in this business?
Ask about industry news
Regardless of the industry in which you work, there are usually new developments you can discuss. Additionally, depending on where your new acquaintance works, they may even have a unique perspective on a story. Not only can you find an interesting conversation topic, but you can better comprehend how well-informed your connection is. In addition to trending topics in your industry, here are a couple of questions that can lead to a fruitful conversation:
- What are your favorite industry publications to read?
- What kind of trends do you see on the horizon?
Ask about their career aspirations
If you’re curious about your connection’s position, or where a job like theirs can take you, it can be difficult to formulate the right words in order to ask appropriately. By asking the right question, you can not only get a sense of their career trajectory, but perhaps how you can achieve something similar as well. Additionally, you can get an idea of how motivated your friend is to continue building their career, which will help you understand your level of compatibility. To better understand their career path and aspirations, ask the following questions:
- What do you love most about working in…
- Where do you see yourself after this position?