Advancing

You’re Doing it Wrong: Here’s a Better Way to Answer “What Do You Do?”

You're Doing it Wrong: Here's a Better Way to Answer

Networking is one of the most effective methods for improving your career trajectory. Whether you are considering changing jobs or looking to gain a promotion within your current company, making business connections is vital. 

Our recent Networking webinar with Marcia Ballinger was a huge success. Marcia is a highly-respected executive recruiter with 25 years in a hugely competitive sector. 

Marcia’s useful advice raised some critical points for those seeking to learn how to navigate what can be a challenging and scary scenario. We fully recommend taking the time to watch the video.

For anyone needing a helpful hint right now, the most crucial step of turning any chat into a network connection is to let go of some widely held but false beliefs.

I Don’t Like to Talk About Myself

That’s great, because that’s not how you network successfully. You could bump into an industry peer in the elevator or have a prearrangedI Don't Like to Talk About Myself meeting, but you can use the time to learn from the other person in each situation. It’s fine to give a summary of your own abilities, but try to keep it under one minute. 

A networking meeting should last no longer than 30 minutes, and you want to be listening for the vast majority of the half-hour.

For a planned meeting, prepare set questions to ensure you learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. Focus on the other person’s skills and keep the conversation centered on how they bring solutions and ideas to their industry.

I Don’t Know What to Ask

Unless you have a specific goal for networking with a particular person, you could find it tricky to come up with questions. This situation is entirely normal and something the majority of people find challenging. 

The key factor is not to waste the opportunity by asking questions that don’t allow the other participant to provide you with valuable information. People love to share knowledge, so enable them to part with their wisdom by asking questions that give them a lot of scope to answer. 

Try to avoid inquiring about information you can easily research online, and remember to stay concentrated on the person’s area of expertise. 

I’ll Do It Later

This approach is a common issue and brings up one of the most essential aspects of networking. You’re not making connections for today; you’re establishing relationships that can help you in the future. 

Many people put off networking, but subsequently find they don’t have a web of useful connections when they need career assistance. By taking action now, you can steadily create a list of associates that appreciate your talents and could be of benefit when you need them most. 

A key aspect of networking is about offering your skills to others, and the majority of people are likely to want to reciprocate. Peers can provide you with new opportunities and introduce you to connections who could further your career.

They Don’t Work in My Industry

It’s important to approach every networking event with an open mind. Sure, maybe meeting a data science professional may not initially seem like a good fit when you work in the legal field. But what if their company is looking to hire a law firm, or they have analytical training that could help you in your daily work?

It’s ok to ask the other person how they think your background and abilities could help you progress in another sector. They’re the experts in their field, and they could provide insights that you don’t have access to without speaking with someone in that profession.

I Don’t Like Asking for Help

Networking is not about asking for help; it’s about offering it. Remember that this process is about building long term relationships that can last for the rest of your career, so they need to be mutually beneficial. 

While you’re listening to others speak, think about how you could help them with issues they experience in their sector. If you’re not sure whether your contribution would be practical, offer assistance anyway. 

People appreciate it when others offer their help, even if sometimes it may not be applicable. They’ll remember your kindness and be more inclined to reach out to you in the future.

I Get Nervous When Networking

Again, this is completely natural. However, you can overcome your agitation by implementing a simple format for any networking meeting. 

In The 20 Minute Networking Meeting, Marcia Ballinger recommends some light introductory chit chat for 2-3 minutes followed by a 1 minute period where you can give a brief overview of what you’re looking to achieve. 

The next 12-15 minutes allow you to put forward your questions while listening to the other person, and ask them for a recommendation as to who you should speak to next. This technique is an excellent way to add to your list of contacts.

Finish with a brief 2-minute conclusion so the meeting doesn’t use up more of the person’s time, and be sure to send them a thank you message later. It’s also beneficial to add a calendar alert to follow up with the attendee so you can stay in touch.

Start Networking Today

Letting go of false beliefs is the most vital step you can take to turn any chat into a networking opportunity. Rather than being held back by inaccurate thoughts, you can begin building a tremendously useful network of contacts that could be incredibly advantageous for your career.

You may have to step outside your comfort zone at the start, but soon you’ll be building long-lasting relationships during every conversation.


Meet with an Ivy Exec Career Coach to get help with your personal assessment and progression plan.


About the Author

Ivy Exec is the premier resource for professionals seeking career advancement. Whether you are on the job, or looking for your next one - Ivy Exec has the tools you need.