How do I Prepare for a Networking Conversation and What Do I Say When I Get There?

There are several job searching strategies, but  few as valuable as building strong networking contacts. That means meeting as many people as you can who are willing and able to provide job leads, resources, and other contacts.  When you do get a contact, you’ll want to make the most of the opportunity.

That means treating every networking conversation as if it were a job interview – being prepared with information and smart questions to ask.

There are three main areas you need to research:

  • The industry (trends, main competitors) using sources such as Standard & Poor’s, and Hoover’s.
  • The company (strategy, structure and performance) using sources such as annual reports, analysts’ reports, news releases, etc.
  • The person (background, experience, interests) using the ACS Network, Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more — how long they have been at the company, job title, career moves, etc.

Based on your “due diligence,” you can plan good quality questions. If your conversation goes well, you will have valuable information, new insights, and new leads.  Achieving these results means you need to prepare more specific questions to draw out the kind of information you need.

There are four kinds of questions you can ask during the networking conversation:

1.  Questions about the company:

How does this company differ from its competitors? Why do customers choose this company?

How would you describe this company’s culture?

How has the economy affected the company?

Why did you decide to work for this company? What do you like and not like about working here?

2.  Questions about the job:

What does your typical day look like? What kinds of problems do you deal with?

What are your main responsibilities? What kinds of decisions do you make?

What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?

What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?

3.  Questions about the person:

How did you prepare for this work? If you were entering this career today, would you change your preparation?

What abilities and qualities do you believe contribute most to success in this field/job?

How does a person progress in this field? What is a typical career path in this field/ organization?

4.    Questions about your own fit for the job:

What are some typical entry-level job titles and functions?

What kind of advice do you have for someone pursuing a job in this area?

With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what would you say are my strongest assets for a job in this area?

What other fields or jobs would you suggest I research?

A well prepared conversation will provide invaluable information, relationships, and connections that will last throughout your career.  For additional resources to help you with your career planning, check the ACS Careers website ( and attend the ACS Onsite and Virtual Career Fairs ( offering opportunities to build your network.

Get Involved in the Discussion!

The Career Tips column will be published the first week of every month in C&EN.  The articles will be posted on the ACS Network and the ACS Careers website, where you’re encouraged to get involved in the discussion.  Tell us what you think, share your experiences, let us know topics you want us addressed.

2 Responses to How do I Prepare for a Networking Conversation and What Do I Say When I Get There?

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