Networking doesn’t come naturally to most people, but networking is an invaluable tool for personal and professional growth. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting your career, networking calls present a golden opportunity to expand your connections, gain insights, and explore potential career opportunities. However, the key to making the most out of these interactions lies in thorough preparation. Don’t overlook the significance of preparing for a networking call and how it can make all the difference to ensure you get what you need out of the call.
Process To Prepare For a Networking Call
One important part of preparation that may go without saying is to give yourself at least 5 minutes to prepare for a networking call, but ideally about 20-30 minutes. Plan ahead so you’re not rushing to do this right before the call begins, so you can approach the situation in the right mindset.
Review Your Research and Reflect on Your Questions (5-10 Minutes)
Conducting thorough research before a networking call is a great first step to ensure you will have a successful and meaningful conversation. By delving into the background of the individual or organization you're connecting with, you not only demonstrate a genuine interest but also position yourself as a proactive, prepared, and engaged professional. Understanding their achievements, current projects, and industry involvement provides you with context that can help you come up with powerful questions and garner the most fruitful information.
You want to remember not to approach this as a “check the box” activity. Rather, be authentic. When you do some background homework, this will allow you to drum up what questions are truly on your mind that would help you learn more about your target roles and industries, in a way that will inform your own efforts and outcomes.
Researching beforehand not only facilitates a smoother and more personalized interaction but also establishes a solid groundwork for building a lasting professional relationship. In essence, the effort put into pre-call research is an investment that pays dividends in the form of enhanced rapport, meaningful dialogue, and a more productive networking experience. In this part of your preparation, you may refer to previous notes or research you have already done and/or new research that is specific to that person’s path or the company they work at.
Refer to Suggested Networking Questions (5 Minutes)
Asking creative questions while networking is critical to getting the answers you need. Rather than relying on typical, surface-level inquiries, creative questions enable you to get real, accurate information that will help deepen your understanding of your target fields. Reference our list of suggested creative questions if you’re unsure where to start or what to ask.
Creative questions can also showcase your own skills and knowledge. So you’re learning from the person, but you can also share your own experiences too. This helps them get to know your professional background in a way you may not have realized. Ultimately, asking creative questions transforms networking from a routine exchange of information into an experience where you can truly gain new knowledge, help to clarify your career direction, impress your listener, and create opportunities for yourself.
Learn about The Person’s Background (5 Minutes)
Inquiring about someone's background during networking is one way to understand their frame of reference, their professional exposure, and where to focus your questions. Before your call, review the person’s LinkedIn profile to see their professional trajectory, and how they brand themselves. Understanding a person's professional journey provides necessary context for the conversation.
If you have questions about their background, ask! However, keep in mind that you can and should also ask about their purview. Perhaps they had similar roles at different companies and they can explain those differences to you. Perhaps they have had interviews for similar jobs to your target roles and can help you understand what to expect. Perhaps they have worked with outside consultants, agencies, or vendors that could be interesting to you. Understanding their role but also the team, department, organization, and industry they are a part of is going to help you zoom into which arenas you most align with. Remember to approach the call in an honest manner, sharing what it is you hope to learn about, rather than feeling forced to only ask about their background.
Read Their Company’s Website (5 Minutes)
Researching someone's personal or company website before a networking call is a strategic move that can significantly enhance the quality of your interaction. By exploring the company website, you gain a comprehensive understanding of their teams, departments, projects, initiatives, and areas of expertise. This information not only equips you with relevant talking points but also demonstrates your proactive approach and genuine interest in their work. What’s better is that it will allow you to come up with great questions as you do this research.
Incorporate insights from their website into the conversation to allow for a more informed and engaging exchange. This will also give you context so you can start to see how their company differs from competitors, how it positions itself, and again, drives your questions to be informed and authentic.
Document and Prioritize Your List of Questions (5 minutes)
Thoughtful questions serve as a roadmap and will help you ensure that you get what you need out of the call. By reflecting and clearly identifying the information you wish to gather, you will showcase a clear sense of purpose and ensure that your time together is used wisely. Make a list of 10-15 questions and put them in priority order, and be sure to phrase your questions as clearly as you can to get the best possible information during the call. For example, seek out data points, trends, patterns, examples, stories, rather than opinions. Again, you can reference our list of suggested creative questions if you’re unsure where to start.
These questions can range from learning deeply to compare certain roles and industries, understanding the company culture, getting tips for breaking into a certain path, garnering ideas on upskilling opportunities, and much more. Preparing key questions will help ensure that this networking call takes you one step forward. Your goal is to get specific learnings and takeaways from this call that can inform your own career strategy, efforts, direction, and outcomes.
Making the Most of Networking Calls
Making the most of networking calls requires a strategic and purposeful approach that extends beyond mere conversation. Utilizing reflection to come up with authentic questions will ensure that you are honest during your call, that way the end result and your takeaways will be impactful for your own next career step. Always follow up after the call with a thoughtful email or message, expressing gratitude for their time and reiterating key points discussed, and remind them of anything they offered to do as a next step (making other introductions, sharing resources, etc).
Making the most of networking calls involves a combination of thoughtful preparation, active engagement, and strategic follow-up, ensuring that each interaction contributes to your professional growth and network expansion. You may have hesitations around networking, but by following the steps outlined above will help you feel comfortable to start the process and it will help make your networking calls as effective as possible.
If you are looking for additional support with networking or finding your ideal career path, you can click here to book a free call with a WOKEN career coach.