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Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

The One Networking Question People Love to Answer

networking templates
Why, I’m so glad you asked!

Are you a good listener?

If so, you might want to consider a career in financial planning. That’s because the job requires patience, the ability to ask smart questions and a talent for connecting with people.

I talked with Kate Healy, managing director for institutional marketing at TD Ameritrade Institutional, about the qualities that are valuable in a financial planner.

“We look for people who have strong relationship skills,” says Healy. “For example, teachers and social workers often have the right skill set for financial planning because they’re great listeners and want to help people.”

Healy and TD Ameritrade are on a nationwide search for the next generation of financial planners, in particular women and minorities. In April, TD Ameritrade announced an expansion of its $2 million Next Generation Financial Planning education initiative. The program now has 12 scholarships worth $5,000 each.

In addition, TD Ameritrade will grant $50,000 to a university or college with an “established” financial planning degree program and another $25,000 to a school with an “emerging” program.

Interested in the scholarships or grants? Learn more here.

When Healy stressed the importance of listening skills, it reminded me of an easy networking strategy with lasting results. All you need to do is ask the one question people love to answer:

“So are you working on any cool projects lately?”

Everyone is always up to something. A new initiative at work, a side hustle, an event in the community…something. And your question allows the person to stand tall and tell you about it.

As we’ve discussed before, the best networkers focus on others. That’s why you should explore someone else’s world in the first five minutes of any conversation. And the “cool projects” question will make the five minutes zoom by.

You: “So are you working on any cool projects lately?”

Other person: “Yep. I just became the lead on a new program with our biggest client and…”

You: “So are you working on any cool projects lately?”

Other person: “Actually, yea. My friends and I are working on this new app and…”

You: “So are you working on any cool projects lately?”

Other person: “Yes, in fact I’m on the planning committee for the big Relay for Life walk this weekend. It’s gonna be great, I should tell you about it…”

Once the person launches into the answer, you listen closely for ways to drop the six most important words in networking (ex: what, who, when).

“Oh cool. So what’s the goal of the program with the big client?”

“An app? Nice. Who is on your team?”

“Relay for Life is a great cause. When does it all get started this weekend?”

With the “one question,” you give the person the floor as if to say “Tell me what you love to do. I’m all ears.”

It’s an ego boost and compliment wrapped in one.

Healy told me a financial planner knows how to ask a pivotal question: “What do you want to achieve in your life?”

As networkers, we should also let people share their passion. It makes them feel valued and helps us build trust, credibility and respect.

Of course, as long as we remember to listen.


What networking questions do you like to ask?

Share below!

Featured photo: Nakeva Corothers (Flickr)


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