9 Lives for Women Blog

Jane’s Journey Back to Work: How to Make Networking Conversations Count | September 9th, 2015

In this early stage of Jane’s job search, she has witnessed the power of Linkedin. To up her chances of having a few online job applications noticed, she has contacted several first and second-degree connections who have in turn contacted influential insiders on her behalf. She has also found “ins” to companies that are on her target list, including a fellow grad school alumnus. All of these connections are layups for conversations about potential employers.

An increase in networking activity has led to this question from Jane: 

When I speak with new contacts about their organizations, I want to be sure to make the conversations count. What are the best takeaways, or things I want to be sure to cover?

 In answer to Jane’s question, I passed along the 9 Lives for Women “Networking Detective Dozen”—12 questions that are sure to give returning professionals or any job seekers a strong sense of an employer’s culture, opportunities and resume value.

The Networking Detective Dozen

  1. What is the culture of the organization? This is a big question that is an umbrella for many others, such as
    • How do employees collaborate? Do employees truly work as a team or are individuals expected to fend for and be accountable only for themselves?
    • Will you have the opportunity to interact with and learn from many different disciplines—or do departments operate as independent silos?
    • Is there a healthy exchange of advice and constructive criticism or finger pointing and difficult politics?
    • Does the leadership team interact with employees at all levels?
    • Does the company attract more of those who are young in spirit (new ideas, approaches) or young in actual age? As an employee who is not 20 or 30-something, are you likely to feel out of place?
    • Do employees generally seem happy, challenged and empowered?
  2. Is there a typical employee profile? Does the company tend to recruit from certain schools, companies/organizations or general backgrounds/areas of expertise? Can you spot a typical employee a mile away or is there a diverse workforce?
  3. Are there a significant number of women in leadership positions? Do there appear to be equal opportunities for both men and women?
  4. What are the opportunities for advancement? Does the company make a conscious effort to cultivate new and existing talents and move people along—or are you likely to stay at the same level and salary indefinitely?
  5. Does the company operate within very traditional office norms—everyone at their desks for more than full-time hours? Are flexible schedules possible—part-time, partial or full telecommuting, job shares, etc.? Does flexibility put you on a different track for raises and promotions? Overall, is the company a “sell your soul” or family- friendly environment? As a returning professional who has been out of the full-time workforce for many years, are you likely to stick out like a sore thumb?
  6. Aside from what may be considered “common knowledge”, what are the company’s current and emerging competitors? Is the internal perspective that the company is cutting-edge or hanging on to past success
  7. Does the company assume a leadership position within its niche or industry? How much does the company participate in industry-wide events, take positions on industry issues, provide opportunities for employees to have external visibility?
  8. What is the fiscal health of the company? Do employees generally feel their jobs are secure? Is there frequent turnover? Does the loss of a big client or project seem to threaten the company’s stability? Are there longstanding relationships with vendors? Is there cost-cutting nitpicking or a willingness and ability to invest resources for new initiatives?
  9. What is the company’s relationship within its local community? Does the company have a civic conscience or a narrow focus on its own financial and organizational goals?
  10. What are the most common misperceptions about the company?
  11. Why do employees generally leave the company?
  12. When you list this company on your resume or Linkedin, what immediate message does it send about your professional experience?

Do you have other questions you like to ask potential employers? Share them with other 9 Lives readers in the Comments section below. And if you like this article, pass it on to friends and colleagues using the social share buttons below as well.

Photo credit: Aleks Melnik/www.freedigitalphotos.net




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