Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

What the heck am I going to talk to a Director about?

This post was written by Jacob Vick ’15, CCD Peer Career Ambassador.

It’s been a message that has been hammered into me through my school, faculty, family, and friends; networking is important. But there will come a point where you say “okay I’m sold….but what am I going to talk to them about?” Now my first recommendation is to try and have those first networking meetings or phone calls with alumni that have recently graduated. Normally they can quickly relate to the position you are in, don’t expect very much from you in terms of technical knowledge, and in my experience are more likely to be genuinely interested in helping you understand the industry or position.

But sooner or later you are going to be faced with the situation of having to speak with someone who is much more senior in the field. For me this meant talking with a Managing Director at a large investment bank. Here is a guy that for over 10+ years continues to eat, live, and breathe his industry. CEO’s turn to him for strategic advice, he regularly works on deals worth over a billion dollars, and he has 10 minutes to talk to me. No pressure.

Now what the heck am I going to talk to a Director about for 10 minutes? Below are three guidelines that others have suggested using and I have tried to follow:

Now you walk me through your resume…

It is pretty much inevitable that you will be asked to walk a potential employer through your resume or “story”, but try and use this same approach to open up the dialogue with your contact. You should always do your research on the person beforehand, but this is your chance to ask more about the firm switch he or she recently made or why they swapped industries.

If you were in my shoes…

I’ve had mixed results with this line of questioning but when it works it can be very insightful. By asking your contact about what they think they would do if there were in your position looking for an internship or job, it first serves as a reminder to them of how they were doing when they were in your spot (potentially opening them up to be more helpful/generous) but it also can give you a very personal and specific look at the opportunities out there that you may not immediately see.

What skills have led to your success in…

Besides slightly flattering your contact this question helps you roll into the more important area of how to develop soft skills. In general you will hear responses related to the obvious traits of hard-work, leadership, teamwork, etc. but then you can ask the deeper question of how to practically gain/improve these traits and get some much more useful information.

In general if you do the proper research into the person, have prepared your questions, and can concisely and meaningfully talk about your experiences you will be over prepared. But there is never any harm in over preparation to make a good impression.