It’s Who You Know
Networking is the process of building sincere relationships with those who can help you achieve your goals—and those you can help as well. If you go into your business relationships with a sense of generosity from the very beginning, willing to connect people who need each other, the professionals around you will quickly take notice.
Networking is the number one way people find jobs. This is mainly due to internal referrals—80 percent of all jobs are filled before a job is even advertised. Having a strong network while you’re job-searching can get your name in front of the employer before the opening is public.
Begin with your end goal in mind: What do you want to get out of the relationship? Start by learning more about the industry you’re interested in and refining your networking skills by attending networking events.
Next, research companies:
- Create a target company list or must-meet list.
- Identify your network. (Who do I know? Who do they know?)
- Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to research and grow your network.
If you’re uncertain about going out on your own, attend a campus networking event and write down observations of good networkers you see. Make an appointment with a career counselor and debrief your experience.
Before attending a networking event, make sure that you know what’s on the agenda and what the dress code is. Prepare résumés or business cards, as well as a 15- to 30-second elevator pitch—who you are, what you want, and why. Bringing a friend may help keep conversations moving.
While You’re There
Networking events may seem intimidating, but they can be really easy:
- Give a firm handshake; maintain eye contact.
- Give what you want to get—treat it like a tennis match and volley questions.
- Don’t get stuck in a conversation that won’t benefit you or the other person.
- End the conversation in order to keep meeting new people.
- Introduce the person to someone else.
- Say “I enjoyed talking with you,” then step backward as a nonverbal cue.
- Say “I would love to talk with you further. Can I have your contact information?”
- Briefly, view their business card in front of them to show respect.
After the Event
Follow up in 48 hours or less. Send an email and/or a thank-you card, and make plans to meet if you want to pursue the connection further.
Building Your Brand
While “brand” is typically a business term, your personal brand—particularly how you present yourself online—can influence potential employers’ thoughts about you.
Consider these questions:
- How do you want people to remember you—are you relaxed, formal, free-spirited, bold?
- What’s your essence?
- What three words come to mind when your name is said?
These details are important to consider, whether you’re just entering the workforce or trying to stand out again.
Social Media Networking
LinkedIn is a valuable resource that provides a number of benefits, including networking, professional development, and job searching.
Establish professional social media profiles—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.—to present your best self publicly. Undercover Recruiter demonstrates how to do this and expand your reach within industries. Employers and recruiters are looking at all available information about you; make sure that you’re easy to find, and allow your social media profiles to give stellar information about you.
Local Networking Opportunities
An informational interview is not a job interview—it’s an interview you conduct to collect information about a job, industry, company, or personal career path. You’re attempting to discover what the person’s job is like, what they do, what responsibilities they have, and what it’s like to work in their job at their company. It also gives you the opportunity to ask for tips they would give to someone in a similar career situation (e.g., a student, career changer, or recent alumnus). Skillfully used, an informational interview is one of the most valuable sources of networking.
There are many prominent professional associations with local and state chapters. Contact Career Services to find professional associations related to your major.
How to Manage Relationships
Being a good networker boils down to being respectful and appreciative of the other person’s time. The professional has taken time out of their busy day to help you, and it’s important to recognize that and even to formally acknowledge their generosity.
Listening—specifically, active listening—is crucial to your success and conveys that you respect and appreciate the other person’s time. Career Attraction provides 7 Steps to Effective Listening, which you can use to strengthen your skills as a listener.
This is partially the thank-you note recommendation (above), but it’s also a reminder that if during the conversation there is mention of additional follow-up, then it should be your highest priority to follow through with your commitment.
Keep in Touch
Keeping in touch is an art form. There is no formula for the appropriate number of
Treat all your relationships like you would friendships. A simple “thank you for your time” and an offer to assist them in any way is a great start to building a strong bridge. You may be thinking, What can I offer to a professional? Sometimes that offer is all they want—it shows that you understand that all relationships are a two-way