Tag Archives: networking

Network For Your Job Search

Networking could be what helps you land a job.

If you take part in social networking sites, you probably have a pretty good idea of how networking can enhance your personal life. But, if you’re like many new college graduates, you’re probably not as comfortable about incorporating networking into your job search.

In spite of your discomfort, you need to incorporate networking into your job search: Especially in a competitive job market, networking could be what helps you land a job. In fact, many jobs are filled before they are even advertised—filled by people who learned about the opportunity before it was formally announced.

What is networking when it comes to the job search? It’s not about using people. Just as you look to build personal relationships through social networks, you want to build relationships to foster your professional life. These relationships can help you not only in your current job search but down the road as you build your career.

Networking is not one-sided: It works both ways. You offer assistance to others just as they offer assistance to you. Perhaps the easiest way to think about networking is to see it as an extension of being friendly, outgoing, and active.

Here are some tips for building and maintaining a healthy network:

  1. Make a list of everyone you know—and people they know—and identify how they could help you gather career information or experience.
    Who do you know at school? Professors, friends, and even friends’ parents can all be helpful contacts. Did you hold a part-time job? Volunteer? Serve an internship? Think about the people you came into contact with there.
  2. Sign up for an alumni mentoring program.
    Many colleges offer such programs, and they are a great way to build relationships in your field.
  3. Join the campus chapter of a professional society that relates to your career choice.
    In many ways, a professional society is an instant network: You’ll be with others who have the same general career interest. Plus, you may be able to learn more about your field from them. For example, you may be able to learn about the field and potential employers from others who share their internship experiences.
  4. Volunteer at a local museum, theater, homeless shelter—anywhere that even remotely relates to your field of study.
    By volunteering, you’ll not only learn about your chosen field firsthand, you’ll also be able to connect with people who are in the field.
  5. Speak to company representatives at career fairs, even if you’re not ready to look for a job.
    Be up front that you’re not currently in the job market and don’t take a lot of the representative’s time, but touching base with a potential employer now can help you down the road when you are ready.
  6. Attend company information sessions at your college and talk one-on-one to the recruiters who run them.
  7. Schedule informational interviews with people who can tell you about their careers.
    It’s best to ask to meet in person or by phone for a short interview, and don’t immediately start asking “How can you help me?” Plan your questions ahead of time, focusing on how the company works and how the person shaped his or her career path.
  8. Add your profile to LinkedIn.
    It’s free. And then, work your profile. Add work history (including internships!), skills, and keywords. Make connections to people you’ve worked with or met through networking. Ask for “recommendations” from people who have worked with you. You’ll find LinkedIn is a good source of suggestions for people in your field to contact for informational interviews.
  9. Remember to be courteous and tactful in all your conversations, to send thank-you notes to people who help you, and to find ways to help others as well.
    Don’t drop your network once you’ve gotten a job. Nurture the relationships you’ve built and look for opportunities to build new connections throughout your career. Getting started might be uncomfortable, but with time and practice, networking will be second nature.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The Networking Challenge

Being a busy and slightly shy student, I found networking to be challenging, even when given specific recommendations for people with whom to connect. Ironically, my most important networking lesson came from a woman I had avoided contacting when I was a novice networker. Although I had shied away from reaching out to her, I came into contact with her through other means: I was assigned to work with her during an internship. Not only did she teach me much about the career I was considering, but she also introduced me to people who I needed to know in my field—including one who eventually had a role in hiring me for my first professional position.

What I didn’t know as a student is that people generally like to help others, especially when you make it easy for them.

Networking is among the most effective career development and job-search techniques. Many job seekers spend their time looking at job postings and want ads, but these seldom provide a complete job description. That’s where networking can play a role: Savvy students use networking to get the full story about organizations, positions, and career-growth opportunities.

Not only can you use networking to find jobs, but the information you learn through networking can help you craft your resume appropriately and give you an edge in the interview. (Although you are likely focused on your first professional job, remember that networking is important for subsequent jobs as well.)

If you are like many students, networking to learn about career options and job/internship leads is probably toward the bottom of your list of job-search tasks. Unfortunately, it may only emerge as important when you’ve exhausted your other options and desperation-or some twist of fate-forces you to try networking.

The fact is, if you are like many students, you probably use networking skills more than you realize. For example, to choose classes, you read through the course catalog, ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations, read “student only” sites with feedback on specific courses and professors, and (hopefully) talk to your academic adviser. Your parents also might offer their thoughts. This is networking. It is a combination of research, conversation, and analysis.

Make networking part of your daily activities

You can easily make networking a part of your normal daily activities. For example, it’s likely you’re being asked by friends and relatives about your post-graduation plans. This is a networking opportunity. Share details with them about fields or positions of interest to help them think of people they know who are doing similar work. Ask them to help you connect with these people, and then, follow through. (Uncertain about your intended career path? Not sure you can offer a clear answer to questions about what you want to do after graduation? Ask your career adviser to help you refine your interests and formulate a good response.)

Make the most of your networking

Finding people to contact is just part of networking. Try these quick tips to make the most of your conversations with networking contacts:

  • Send an e-mail to introduce yourself when requesting a meeting. Explain (briefly!) what you have in common and describe what you hope to learn through your conversation. Include a date and time that you will follow up by phone to schedule your meeting time if you haven’t heard back; then, follow through! (Because so many people don’t do what they say they will, this attention to detail is sure to impress.)
  • Research the industry, organization, and person you will be meeting prior to your conversation.
  • Consider information that you are learning in classes, internships, or student organizations that might be interesting to your target contact.
  • Make a list of questions to ask; if you are starting with a sample list of questions obtained from your career center or online, customize the questions to be specific to the industry and the person you will be contacting.
  • Treat professionals with respect. Use appropriate grammar and spelling when writing messages. If you’ve scheduled a meeting, don’t cancel. Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Whether your conversation is in person, on the phone, or via e-mail, follow up with a thank-you note to show your appreciation and improve your chances of creating a productive relationship.
  • Don’t be discouraged if some people whom you contact aren’t immediately helpful. Be patient, and continue to develop contacts. Similarly, you might encounter people who you don’t feel a positive connection toward; in those cases, be polite, send a thank-you note, and move on. None of us can predict which connections will lead to meaningful outcomes, so use care to nurture your connections. Accept networking as an investment in your future that can produce results in the present.

There are a variety of places through which to find people to talk to about your professional interests. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn;
  • Alumni networks and campus mentoring programs;
  • Career fairs, employer information sessions, and networking events;
  • Professional associations related to your field of interest;
  • Friends/family and their friends; and
  • Community groups.

Article written by Lisa Hinkley, Director of Career Services, at Lake Forest College.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Four Steps to Career Fair Networking

Career Fair Prep

  • Perfect your resume.
  • Get your professional dress ready (typically business casual or business dress).
  • Practice introducing yourself.
  • Find out which employers are attending.
  • Research the employers you want to meet with.
  • Prepare specific and general questions.

What to Bring

  • Business cards
  • Padfolio, notepaper, and pen
  • 10-15 resumes (depending on fair size)

During the Fair

  • Walk around to meet employers alone—you might have friends at the fair who you check in with, but don’t travel as a posse.
  • Limit your give-away item collecting.
  • Introduce yourself with a smile, a handshake (if recruiter offers a hand), and a few relevant details about yourself, your education/experience, and/or interest in the employer.
  • Speak slowly and confidently.
  • Be strategic—talk to your top three employers first, others if you have time.
  • Take quick breaks between rounds of visits to freshen up and take a breather.
  • Don’t dominate recruiters, be mindful of other students waiting in line.
  • Ask about opportunities and next steps if there are specific openings.
  • Wait for cues from recruiter regarding resumes—some will be collecting them, others might direct you to follow up by e-mail, or apply online.
  • Get the appropriate contact information and/or ask for a business card.
  • Thank recruiters after speaking with them.
  • Take notes as soon as you walk away from a table.

After the Fair

  • Take a few minutes immediately after fair to sort through your notes and make a list of follow-up items.
  • Follow up and thank recruiters of particular interest. (You don’t have to follow up with everyone.)
  • Follow up with online applications, or by sending a resume and cover letter to the appropriate contact.
  • Reach out via e-mail or by telephone to reps who were not at fair, but who work with your level of education/field.
  • Set up informational interviews with individuals at companies/organizations of particular interest to you, and with alumni in these organizations.
  • Check in with your career office with specific questions.

Article written by Kathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.