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Networking is a critical strategy for growing your career but unfortunately, most people go about networking the wrong way. Often, when people try to leverage their contacts, they make the mistake of talking about themselves the entire time.  If you’re attempting to leverage your own network but you aren’t sure what to do when you get a face-to-face meeting with someone, try asking for advice.

Everyone Likes To Offer Advice

The great thing about asking a contact for career advice is that everyone has an opinion, and most people are willing to share theirs.  It is rare for someone to turn you down if you ask for their advice. Why? Asking for advice plays to a person’s ego. It says that you trust their expertise and knowledge so much that you want to pick their brain. Asking for advice also plays into our human tendency to enjoy talking about ourselves. The advice giver will almost always use their own past experiences to formulate their suggestions to you.

How To Ask For Advice Like A Pro

Let’s say you’re interested in a job with a contact’s current employer. Reach out and ask if she has time for lunch or coffee during the week because you’d like to ask for her advice.  Don’t forget to use the actual word “advice.”

Once you meet up with your contact, explain your goal and that you’re looking for her advice on the best way to get in the front door. Ask for her insights into how the company functions, the culture of the organization and the management structure. Also ask her how she likes it there and how she got hired. Make sure to ask open-ended questions and give her lots of time to talk. Finally, ask her what she thinks you should do next? Is there someone specific you should contact at the organization? Could she make an introduction?

Remember – Keep The Focus Off You

Though asking for advice is a networking strategy, you want to remember that the meeting should not be centered around you. It’s about building your relationship with your contact, while collecting some important information in the process. Try to keep the focus on the contact’s experiences and advice rather than yourself.

Asking for advice is an extremely passive way to go about networking and building relationships. Even the most introverted people can ask for advice with ease. Notice you’re not pushing or asking the contact to stick her neck out for you, you’re simply gathering intelligence while strengthening your relationship.

If you do land an interview, call or email your contact and let her know how it went and that you appreciate the introduction (if she made one). Then, make sure to ask if there is anything you can do for her. Remember that networking is a two-way street, and it’s important to help your contacts, as well.

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