Building your ‘net-WORTH’ - Key questions for a successful professional meeting
Building professional circles and networks is an ongoing mission that should be a top priority if we want to ensure a continuous career development. It’s like that old saying: “it’s not what you know, but who you know”; in order to make sure we reach our full potential, we should focus on learning from other people’s experience, tactics and best practices.
The motivation to invest in enlarging our network can arise from different reasons, such as: shortening learning curves and avoid making mistakes that were made by others in the past, building support groups with others who face similar professional challenges, or making room for diverse opportunities that could arise from close knit relationships. Sounds magical, right?
Although this sounds promising, we often face a real problem when we actually get in the door and meet those professionals we’d like to add to our network. Sometimes, these sorts of meetings simply don’t click. Over the past several years, I had the pleasure of mentoring dozens of young entrepreneurs and professionals who were at a career crossroad. When we discuss those important meetings as part of building their ‘net-WORTH’, I recommend focusing on three main questions during the meeting; questions that have personally helped me turn uncomfortable meetings into great ones.
How did you get to this role?
If you have the chance to meet a person who’s in an interesting position, chances are they have an interesting story to tell about the journey that got them there. Dale Carnegie’s famous quote declares: “talk with someone about themselves and they will listen for hours”. This quote holds a strange oxymoron within it: if we talk with someone about themselves, how can they listen? As weird as it may seem, it’s true. When we talk with someone and they get the feeling that we are listening to them, their brain releases dopamine: a hormone that contributes greatly to happiness, pleasure, and tends to make us more generous. If we focus on listening to someone’s story about their journey and the choices they made while building their career, we can learn a lot: what worked, what didn’t work, how they would react if they would encounter the same situation today.
These are all key moments that built their career, and we have a chance to learn from these moments and implement the lessons we learn from them as we build our own careers. However, we can only do that if we focus on listening and not speaking. Also, after the other party shares their experience, and after receiving the pleasure of having a curious listener that wants to learn about and from them, the next question out of their mouth is usually: “how can I help you?”. Don’t believe me? try it for yourself.
What do you like the most about your role?
This question is one of my favorites, because usually when I ask it, the person in front of me reacts like a child who just entered a candy store. Even if we have the dream job and we go to the office every day with a smile, there are always things that we hate to do. For example, working with excel sheets, analyzing reports, doing market research, etc. However, when asked about our favorite part of our role, we will usually react with a big smile and will be happy to share it in detail. I found that this question can break the ice even with the least communicative people and engage those who feel uncomfortable with the meeting. Furthermore, by learning what someone like most about their role, you can get a good perspective about the essence of the role. If my favorite part of my role is meeting interesting people and creating new collaborations for my company, it’s likely that this was my motivation to take the role in the first place, and is, therefore, where I focus my efforts.
What are your goals for 2021…or for 5 years from now?
This question might be a tricky one, but it is extremely valuable. Some people might feel like this question is a part of an HR yearly review. however, if you ask this question at the right timing, the other party might be willing to share with you their future career plans. I heard some fascinating answers to this question that I would have never guessed. For example, a senior technology manager in a successful startup company who wishes to move into research on helping people live forever in healthy and young bodies. Or a senior marketing manager at a large corporation who wished to write poetry and perform on stage. My hypothesis is that interesting people have interesting and unexpected plans for their future, and we can learn a lot from their current position, but also from the path they wish to go through.
Looking forward, here are my two cents
Asking the right questions when meeting successful people may help you build your professional circles, which in turn will contribute to your current position, but also to your next one. In order to keep these meetings alive and kicking, I encourage you to work with the “ripple effect” methodology. This idea came to me when I mentored a young and talented lady towards her first position after graduating from university. During a discussion we had about interesting people she should meet, I encouraged her to end every meeting with the question: “who do you think I should meet next?” I realized it works like a ripple effect: talented and successful people usually surround themselves with talented and successful people.
By asking this question, we have a chance to meet them and enlarge our circles on a continuous basis. But the ripple effect does much more than that: first, it opens doors. Meeting important people through connections with other important people can shorten the distance and decrease the effort needed to get that next meeting. Second, the ripple effect provides a chance for the unexpected. We tend to think of people we should meet according to our perception of what we need. But other people who are currently in the roles we wish to one day have, provide a completely different perspective, and by directing us to someone else, open the door to other interactions we might not have thought of. Lastly, by finding your next meeting goal, you can also get a good sense for what others see when you present yourself to them. This is an important tool, because by seeing how we are perceived, we can more accurately gauge the distance between what we want to tell the world about ourselves, and what the world sees.
Creating a ripple effect is much harder than simply throwing a stone in a lake. But it is possible, and when it happens, it can have fantastic results. You can’t start a ripple effect without taking the first step, by creating those meeting opportunities, and asking the right questions after you get through the door. There are many good questions out there, but in this post, I’ve shared with you three of those questions that always work.