Networking is the act of building relationships. It’s making connections and sharing information for both personal and professional gain. Professional networking used to be largely accomplished through face-to-face interactions. Now, however, it can be accomplished through multiple channels, including online sites like LinkedIn.com.
The opportunity to network can occur anytime and anywhere – in the classroom, at a family event, in the grocery store or at a career-focused event. Anytime you’re establishing a relationship, you’re building your network.
Identify and build your network
Think about the network you already have in place (yes – everyone has one, whether they know it or not!). Consider your friends, relatives, friends of friends, classmates, professors, employers or acquaintances.
Next, identify places where you can make new relationships. Look into professional organizations, student groups, and alumni contacts. You may even want to consider looking for contacts that don’t necessarily have the same career path as you – having a diverse network has its benefits.
In many cases, your opportunity to meet someone else depends solely on your willingness to reach out to them. Although people may not have jobs to offer, they will have advice to share, stories about their career paths, and possibly recommendations for contacting others. When reaching out to people in your network, be sure to:
- Offer an introduction explaining why you are interested in connecting with them and how you received their contact information (if you were referred to them by another person).
- Be specific about the information you are seeking (i.e. information about a specific career path).
- Request to arrange a time to meet or speak that is convenient for them.
- Thank them for their time.
Networking in a group setting or at an event
Networking events provide a great opportunity to make connections, gain information and grow your network. When attending an event:
- If information is available about speakers or other guests before the event, do research about their company or job so you have something talk about.
- Dress professionally and be on time.
- Introduce yourself to as many people as possible and try to make a good impression.
- If you feel you have made a strong connection with someone, consider exchanging business cards and asking if you can follow up with them sometime.
- At the conclusion, thank speakers or hosts and touch base with those you spoke to during the event.
- After the event, follow up with those whom you connected with.
Say Thank You
Following up with your contacts is an important step in developing and maintaining your professional network. After meeting a contact, send a quick email thanking them for his/her time. Sending thank you notes is more than a professional courtesy; it’s a wise business practice. Failure to do so can have a negative impact on your professional image and, subsequently, your relationship with your network.
Think of LinkedIn as a professional version of Facebook. LinkedIn has more than 100 million users and is the most important online networking tool for both job seekers and recruiters. Your LinkedIn profile is like an interactive business card. It’s a summary of your professional background that is designed to attract recruiters, networking contacts, and grad schools. View 3-min. video clip above for an overview.
How to get started:
View this PowerPoint for step by step instructions to create your LinkedIn Profile: LinkedInTutorial
- Visit www.linkedin.com
- Create account (free)
- Add “education” (beyond high school)
- List work experiences
- Develop concise “summary” statement about your goals and qualifications
- Fill in “specialties” with keywords a recruiter might use in his/her search
- Craft a profile headline such as “Journalism major seeking print media internship”
- Claim your unique LinkedIn URL (i.e. www.linkedin.com/in/bobjones)
- Upload a professional headshot
- Join some LinkedIn groups
- Collect recommendations from employers, colleagues, professors, mentors
- Connect with as many people as possible
- Use “advanced search” to identify potential hiring managers’ names