5 Questions to Avoid When Networking

By Chelsea Babin

Expanding your professional network can really improve your career and help you create long-lasting friendships with people in your field. However, the act of networking is often fraught with awkwardness and small talk. Let’s face it, no one is really that great at small talk, which is probably why these 5 questions that should be avoided come up so often when you’re networking. You should avoid asking these 5 questions when you’re networking.

1. How do you like your job? This isn’t a question that should be avoided entirely but, when you’re first meeting someone and trying to network with them, this seemingly innocuous question is a bit risky. Unfortunately, some people really hate their jobs. Get a sense of whether the person you’re trying to network with is satisfied with their job by asking about things they like. If they go on and on, they’re probably happy where they are and happy doing what they do. If they’re curt and don’t go into detail, they may be ready to jump ship at any moment.

2. What do when you’re not working? Although this question may seem harmless, it’s known by many in the dating world and professional networking world as a question fraught with awkwardness. Why? Because they could be busy taking care of ill family members or they could have a second job to support their family. Or they could have no time for fun right now because they’re so busy with work. Or they could simply prefer to stick to discussing their careers until they get to know you better. Instead of this you can ask, “what keeps you busy these days?” That way, they can discuss their family or hobbies or work life—wherever they’d prefer to steer the conversation. If you’re interested in what they do outside of work, ask specifically about hobbies and side projects instead.

3. What can you do? This question, though too blunt to be appropriate, is coming from the right place. When you’re networking, you want to understand people’s strengths and weaknesses so you can see where you can help them out in their career and possibly where they can help you out after you’ve gotten to know them a little better. Instead, ask the question, “what’s your favorite thing you get to do at your job?” or “what are your strengths in or outside of the office?”

4. How much do you make? Even when you’ve established a relationship with someone this question can still be considered awkward and uncomfortable. It’s best to steer clear of salary discussions with people in your professional network until you know whether or not they’re a person who likes to share their personal finance journey.

5. Have you thought about going back to school? This question often comes up when someone expresses dissatisfaction with their current career path. However, this judgment disguised as advice is often unwelcome in a networking setting and should be avoided.

Networking can be awkward but it doesn’t have to be! Avoid these 5 questions when you’re networking and you’ll have an easier time establishing those crucial professional relationships.