Many people either love or hate networking, but there's no question that it makes a difference in today's world.

According to the Harvard Business Review, heaps of research over the years show that professional networking can lead to:

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So, what is networking? It's the process of building and nurturing relationships with other professionals who can support your growth and vice versa.

These interactions happen online through business or social media websites such as LinkedIn or Twitter, public speaking events, or professional development classes.

Networking is key at all stages of your career. But it's even more important for new college graduates or those trying it for the first time, who may be disadvantaged compared to more experienced job-seekers in their field.

But it can be tough to know what to say when networking for a job. One strategy is to ask questions that will help kickstart a connection.

We asked five professionals to recommend their best conversation starters and their thoughts on why networking is important for all levels of professionals.

Ben Farber
PRESIDENT OF BRISTOL ASSOCIATES

"Networking should be treated as an organic and ongoing process. It takes time and effort to cultivate professional relationships with others. The best way to approach networking is to go in with zero expectations of receiving something in return. Whether it pays off in your professional endeavors or not, gaining a new relationship is a valuable reward for first-time networkers."

Farber's favorite questions:

  • How did you join the industry/field?
  • What is the best part of the job?
  • What is the most challenging part of the job?
  • What advice would you give someone who plans to enter this line of work?
  • What do you like to do outside of work?

Sebastian Schaffer
CTO AND CO-FOUNDER OF DOFOLLOW.IO

"Your network is what you lean on when you're looking for a job, need help with a project, or when times are tough. New grads and first-time networkers are, unfortunately, [facing] a very ominous job market and overall economic situation. If they don't have a strong network to help them weather the storm, they're going to have a very tough time."

Schaffer's favorite questions:

  • What brings you to this (event/meeting)?
  • Have you been to something like this before? If so, what was your favorite part?
  • Who are some of the people you're hoping to meet here?
  • I'm interested in learning more about (industry/company/topic). Do you have any advice or resources to recommend?
  • Do you know of any upcoming projects or opportunities I might be a good fit for?

Max Wesman
COO AT GOODHIRE

"Building out a strong network is immensely helpful as a recent grad or first-time networker...the right connection could put you in front of professional development opportunities — some of which could change your career trajectory for life. As a recent graduate, or someone with minimal work experience, having a network of seasoned professionals to lean on is a great way to get a head start before your career begins."

Wesman's favorite questions:

  • What advice would you give to your younger self when you were fresh out of college?
  • Are there any resources that you wish you had found sooner? For example, an online course, a book, or a mentor?
  • Is there anything you would do differently if you could start your career from the beginning?

Linda Shaffer
CPOO AT CHECKR

"Networking is important for building relationships and expanding your professional network. It can help you meet new people, learn about new opportunities, and gain insights into your industry. For new grads or first-time networkers, networking can be a great way to learn more about your chosen field and make connections that can lead to future opportunities."

Shaffer's favorite questions:

  • How did you get started in your field?
  • What has been your biggest career challenge?
  • What do you see as the future of your industry?
  • What is the most important skill for someone in my position?
  • Do you have any advice for someone just starting their career?

Shirlene Kyin
DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS OPERATIONS AT SOYLENT

"Networking helps you find opportunities that aren't just posted on job sites. It allows you to meet and form connections with other professionals that can help you get the opportunities you really want. Networking is also incredibly educational. You can learn about how professionals further in their career got to where they are so that you can try to make similar, smart moves — or learn from their mistakes."

Kyin's favorite questions:

  • Where did you start your career, and how long did it take to get where you're now?
  • What experience or skills does a person need to work for your company?
  • What can I do to become a more qualified candidate at your company?
  • What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
  • What advice do you have for someone like me who wants to end up in a career like the one you have now?

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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