How to Network: A Beginner's Guide
Now a days I’m sure that you’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know,” referring to the fact that a good network will help you find a job over skills. However, I’m sure some of you are asking “what is networking?” or “what is a proper way to network?” For this, there is no correct answer, just many tips, tricks to help you stand out or teach you how to network. Networking is essentially developing contacts, and connecting with individuals, which often creates a mutually beneficial relationship when it comes to employment. There are ways to network in any setting!
Types of Networking
There are two different types of networking; in a social (in-person) atmosphere and virtually (online). Networking in a social setting is the easiest way, and I’m sure you’ve already done it, even if it wasn’t at a professional event or on campus. Ever gone to a party by yourself and strike up a conversation with the person standing next you? Ever gotten his/her number or added him/her to Facebook after? That’s networking right there! It’s as simple as that. Gaining a connection is key to networking. Often networking in person allows a more personable connection than online, however, social media has made it easier to maintain a larger network with designated sites to keep in touch with your network and store all their information. The 95 people who follow you on Twitter are a part of your social network and you are a part of the network of the 247 people you follow. The more people you know online, the larger your social media network.
Networking to increase your professional contacts is always a smart idea! Never cease to represent your most professional self and show off your talent, it could be beneficial for you. Career fairs (find some on InternMatch!), professional networking events, and interviews are places where you should be networking. Speak up to employers at career fairs and give them more than just an elevator pitch; they hear plenty of those. Show them your personality, express your interest in their organization and what they do, and why you are passionate to work there. Tell them that it is your dream job, and don’t leave without their contact information. After the career fairs send them an email, thanking for their time and once again expressing your interest. If they remember you and see that you are persistent, it will benefit only you. Whether it’s via Linked’In, e-mail, or phone, keeping in touch with someone who has similar professional interests could help you land an interview, or even a job.
Networking at events isn’t the only way to create a professional network. Linked’In is a very valuable resource that more students need to take advantage of. It’s not just about have a detailed profile or contact list, because there are plenty more resources. Think about the industry you are interested in or even the specific position and join a relevant group. Linked’In has hundreds of school, company, and industry groups that you could join and get involved in, as well as blogs you can follow by professionals in different industries. Join in conversations and ask questions, these groups are filled with professionals who have knowledge and expertise and are willing to share it. They can give you advice pertaining to specific positions and may know someone who can help you – there it is, networking again. There are also groups you could join in person that can help you build a solid network. Taking a class at a YMCA, joining a young professionals business group, or a volunteer organization like the Red Cross, are all ways to meet people, and thus build a network. At these groups there are people in similar positions, wanting to build a network, so if you happen to be the one who has the expertise, feel free to share it. What goes around comes around, and if you help someone, sooner or later, someone will be there to help you.
Creating connections on campus will be the easiest way to network for you. Ever had issues trying to get into prerequisite class that is only offered in the fall or needed a recommendation letter and not known who to ask? Build relationships with your professors. Develop relationships with your professors by speaking up during class, going to office hours, and through email. Many professors have years of field experience and are always willing to share their knowledge with students. Developing a relationship with your professors could get you a good recommendation letter and a referral to job. Their field experience will most likely have assisted them in creating contacts at companies in their industry. Since companies are heading towards 50% for number of hires from referrals, it is important to know someone in the business.
Professors aren’t the only people you should be networking with during college, there are an incredible amount of organizations that will allow you to network. The engineering club, business society, and Greek organizations are just a few of the many places where you can create a network. These organizations have connections to companies through sponsorship and even alumni who graduated and found jobs at various companies. Joining these organizations, going to events, and connecting with the alumni can help you expand your network. Once you’re involved though, don’t just stay a member, run for an official position so you have the opportunity to create events, meet professionals, and past alumni of your organizations. Putting yourself out there is essential! Greek organizations point out all the time that their alumni have gotten to high places, and if you are in that sorority or fraternity, there could be unlimited resources to help refer you to the right position. A couples names that might stand out are former President George W. Bush from Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale or Katie Couric from Delta Delta Delta at University of Virginia. These people have influence in the college and outside and can help you. And one day after you’ve graduated and are making your mark in a company, you can do the same and help another student find their way.
Networking takes a few steps: getting out there and introducing yourself, making the connections, and building the relationships. All it does is take some time, but it won’t ever hurt to have a strong network. And who knows? One day you’ll be one everyone wants to make a connection with.