21 Questions You Haven't Been Asking Your Network (But Really Should)
Real talk: It’s not exactly appropriate to ask someone in your network to get you a job or hold your hand through a major career change. Outside of close family members, you probably aren’t on that level with most of your contacts, not to mention these asks are, uh, a bit grandiose.
But while asking for a job or something of similar size may be off-limits, there are plenty of other things that are smaller but just as important when it comes to your career that you can totally run by your network.
Keeping in mind the depth of your relationship (i.e., it’s totally appropriate to ask someone you just met for book recommendations, not so much for a LinkedIn recommendation), feel free to reach out to your contacts for some of the following:
1. “Can You Introduce Me to [Person Your Contact Knows]?”
Is there a professional you don’t know but really want to get in touch with? If someone in your network knows that person, it’s a lot easier to break the ice. Just hop on over to this template, which makes it ridiculously easy to email a contact asking for an introduction.
2. “Is There Anyone in Your Network You Think I Should Talk To?”
If you don’t have any particular person you’d like to meet in mind, it can still be helpful to see if your professional contacts have ideas for others with whom you should connect. Tell them the types of people you’re hoping to meet, and there’s a solid chance they know at least one person who would be interesting for you to chat with.
3. “Do You Know Anything About Company X?”
Whether you’re applying to new jobs or just exploring new possibilities, picking your contacts’ brains about what they know about the industry is always a good idea. For example, is there a certain company in your industry that is doing well but has a reputation for being a terrible place to work? These are things to have on your radar.
4. “Any Recommendations for Industry Events and Conferences?”
If you’re unsure which networking opportunities, industry events, and conferences are worth your time, asking a few of your professional contacts is a stellar option. Bonus: You never know who might be able to get you an awesome discount or a free ticket!
5. “Can We Have an Informational Interview?”
While it may be too much to ask someone for a job, asking someone for an informational interview is way less intimidating (and could also give you some leads for where to look!). If you’re not sure how to initiate the process of landing and going to an informational interview, these steps from career expert Ashley Stahl will make you seem like a pro.
6. “Can You Look Over My Resume and Cover Letter?”
Are your resume bullet points specific enough? Is the funny opening line of your cover letter appropriate? How does your resume stack up to others in your field? Ask your contacts to give your documents a once-over, and hopefully you’ll get the feedback you need. (Hint: It’s most helpful if you can tell them specifically what to focus on.)
7. “Can You Help Me Go Over These Interview Questions?”
Doing a practice run of common interview questions (like these) is a must, and having someone there to help you will make your dry run feel like the real deal. Ask a contact (ideally someone who’s been in the hiring position before) to help you practice a few and give you pointers.
8. “Do You Have Any Insight on This Problem?”
If you have contacts who work in the same field as you, it’s always helpful to get their two cents on problems that arise during both the job search process and your day-to-day office life. For example, if you work in media, maybe you want someone to give your edit test a look before you submit it. Or, if you work in account management, try asking a seasoned pro for a couple of pointers on dealing with a tough client.
9. “Can You Help Me Weigh the Pros and Cons?”
Debating between two job offers? Not sure how to go about a certain situation? People in your network can help you figure out which option to go with in a tricky situation or at least point out some different things for you to think about.
10. “Is There a Better Way to Go About This?”
Everyone looks at things from a different perspective, so if you’re feeling stuck on how to approach something, think about who might look at the situation through fresh eyes.
11. “Can You Help Me Brainstorm Some New Ideas?”
Whether it’s ideas for your latest project on the job or help figuring out a clever way to write your cover letter, people in your network can help you brainstorm pretty much anything.
12. “Can You Give Me Feedback on How I Dealt With This?”
Sometimes we all just need honest feedback, and in work-related situations it’s often easier to get it from a professional contact than from your best friends. Because, well, sometimes your friends won’t just tell it like it is.
13. “Can I Hear More About Your Career Path?”
If you’re heading into a daunting situation professionally or dealing with a problem at your job, it’s always great to hear some stories of how other people navigated similar troubles.
14. “Is There Anything You Wish You Had Done Differently in Your Career?”
This question can not only help you avoid certain pitfalls during your own career, but it can also give you things to consider that you might not have before. Most people love reflecting on and talking about their careers, so you’re bound to get some good stuff by asking this.
15. “Do You Have Any Advice for Someone at My Level?”
Obviously, the advice for career success and advancement is different for an entry-level employee versus someone who’s rising through the ranks, so ask your contacts for specific advice based on how far up the career ladder you are.
16. “Where Are Your Favorite Places to Get Work Done?”
Sometimes, a change of scenery can make all of the difference for your productivity. And people in your local network may just have some great ideas for workspaces that you haven’t though of before!
17. “Do You Have Any Good Reading Recommendations?”
What good industry or professional development newsletters, websites, and magazines should you be checking out? Your network will know.
18. “Would You Serve as a Reference for Me?”
While you should save this for only contacts who know you and your work well, it’s a good idea to have a short list of people who can effectively and enthusiastically speak to your qualifications when you need them to.
19. “Could You Recommend or Endorse Me on LinkedIn?”
Similarly, using the tools on LinkedIn can make it easy for professional contacts to illustrate that they support the work you do without too big of a commitment.
20. “Can You Help Me Promote This?”
Did your company just launch a cool new product? Need help spreading the word about an event you’re putting on? Trying to let everyone know that you’re starting a new gig? Reach out to your network and ask people to post about it on social media. (Pro tip: Write out sample tweets they can easily copy, paste, and share.)
21. “How Can I Help You?”
While your professional contacts can be incredible career resources, remember that networking should never be a one-way street. So, when you’re asking your contacts for something—and even when you’re not!—always look for ways that you can help them, too. Regularly giving to others will ensure that they’re always happy to return the favor.
Lily is a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect, the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her writing with The Muse, she also serves as an editor at HelloFlo and Her Campus. Recently, she was named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women for her work helping underserved youth get into college. You can follow Lily on Twitter.More from this Author