Networking is knowing other people. Networking is talking to other people. Every day you come in contact with people talking with them about your career goals and job search may be very beneficial to you. Your network can begin with people in your family, your friends and your professors. Soon as you grow your network it may include many people in the career area you are pursuing. The key to effective networking is maintaining contact with people. As you begin to build your network and begin speaking with others about your career goals, be prepared to answer questions and speak about yourself and your goals.
- Know your interests, skills, abilities and values inside and out.
- Know who the key players in your industry are including individuals, employers and current trends.
- Know that even if someone can’t connect you to someone now, they may be able to at another time. Keep in contact with people because things change all the time in business and if someone doesn’t have an idea for you today, they might tomorrow.
- The most important thing you need to remember about networking is always be polite. Ask if you can inquire about a company, a position or an industry. Ask if they have any ideas about getting in to a certain industry and how they accomplished their goals. With each contact, you will feel more confident. Also remember that networking is a two-way street and ask the people in your network not only about your job search but ask about their professional careers or engage in other types of conversations that build relationships.
Many students feel as though they have no place to start because they have no direct links to professionals in their field of study. However, this is simply not true. Just being a student gives you access to excellent contacts: professors! In addition to professors, you can cultivate contacts within your:
- Immediate family
- Extended family
- Social clubs and organizations
- Campus clubs and organizations
- Church, synagogue and religious groups
- Professional associations
- Former employers, supervisors and co-workers
The contacts you already have can be extended out to secondary contacts. This will include others who you may not know directly, but you have a relationship with someone who knows them. In addition, if you have not already done so, cultivate new contacts from the above list.
Obvious places to begin building your network are at industry related professional organizations, college sponsored opportunities to meet professionals, local chambers of commerce (they often have mixers and after hour affairs where anyone may attend; usually those who are not members of the Chambers of Commerce will need to pay a fee to attend), community functions or direct contacts.
Be genuine, confident, positive and enthusiastic in all your networking communications.
When you approach a contact in person, by phone or e-mail be prepared. Know what you want to say and have your resume nearby. Often times, people have been referred to a contact through another person. Make mention that you were given a name by a mutual acquaintance. Tell your contact that you are seeking employment in your field and that you are looking for guidance and information about steps to take toward your career goals. You need to know ahead of time information about the company, industry and the person you are contacting. Questions you will want to consider asking your network contact are:
- Do you want to know more about that person’s type of field or career path?
- Do you want to know what types of employees the person’s firm hires?
- Are you trying to learn about the requirements for a posted opening at the person’s firm?
- Ask your contact if you may forward your resume to him or her and, if the contact says yes, send it promptly, along with a cover letter referring to your conversation.
In your quest for cultivating networks, you will begin to develop numerous relationships. It is vital to maintain these relationships. To keep your contacts organized, it is best to keep a manual or electronic log including the following:
- Correct spelling of first and last name
- Title, employer, address, telephone and e-mail
- Priority of contact (high, medium, low)
- Dates of when contact is made and nature of contact
After you make a connection with a contact, be sure to send a thank you letter. This can be e-mailed. This will indicate your appreciation of their time and it maintains the relationship. On a weekly basis, check your network log and make contact with those individuals who you haven’t connected with in a while. If your contact gives you additional names of individuals to contact, make sure to connect with these leads as soon as possible.