Do you talk with your friends on Facebook? If so, you have already networked in some form. Networking is making connections and sharing with other people.
In today's job market, approximately 90% of the jobs that are filled have never been advertised to the general public. Instead, recruiters rely heavily on "word of mouth" or "who you know" methods. This is where networking comes in.
- Learn more about your career field or industry.
- Meet people working in your career field/industry and develop relationships.
- Research potential employers.
- Inform others of your job search and career plans.
- Open lines of communication in the job market to discover hidden opportunities.
- Possibly create a job where none currently exist.
- Help others achieve their career goals.
Rules for networking
Follow these rules when networking:
- Prepare your 30-second commercial, also known as an elevator speech.
- Always be polite and courteous.
- Never ask for a job! Ask for information and advice.
- Do not monopolize the conversation; listen to other people instead of talking endlessly about yourself.
- Ask for suggestions on how to expand your network.
- Send a thank-you note.
- Follow up periodically and maintain contact with people in your network.
- Reciprocate the assistance you receive. What value can you give to others?
Identify your network
Your network consists of everyone you know. Start by making a list of all the people you know, and include information about what they do for a living and where they work. This list will include your family, family friends, your friends and their families, instructors, colleagues, and anyone else who might be willing to help.
Expand your network with other professionals:
- Attend networking events
- Join alumni groups
- Participate in career-related conferences
When you attend conferences and events, exchange business cards in order to contact individuals later. Alumni often are very willing to help students/new professionals, and you already have a connection through Missouri State University. Using online networking tools is becoming more essential in today’s market to identify local, national, and international professional contacts.
Professional networking site that allows you to build a professional profile/résumé online and connect with people around the world.
A free website that allows you to build a profile/résumé and portfolio online. You can claim your URL and include it on your résumé for employers to see what you are capable of doing.
Set up a free website to post whatever you think will help an employer decide to hire you. Use the URL on your résumé.
Finding someone who works in your career field can be the most valuable resource you have. Developing a relationship with this person and asking him/her for information and advice can be very helpful in planning your career path and making connections in the community. If you need assistance finding a mentor, visit the Career Center for help. Once you get started in your career, remember to “pay it forward” and offer to mentor someone else.
Initial contact and introduction
It is natural to be a little nervous about contacting professionals to ask for help, but try to relax. Because every career person was once a student starting a career, most are happy to share their story and give insight and advice to students and new professionals. Making the initial contact can be uncomfortable but can show a lot of confidence and genuine interest if done professionally. You will never have a second chance to make a first impression, so plan ahead and be courteous of their time. It is common to share information in the work world, so many professionals will be happy to speak to you. Prepare a 30-second commercial, which helps you decide what you want to tell others about yourself.
The key is to NEVER ask for a job; ask only for advice and information. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so draw in your contact with questions. Requesting an informational interview can be beneficial in getting the information you seek and expanding your network. (See Informational Interview handout.) Creating personal business cards to exchange with other professionals you meet during networking can be very useful. These business cards can be made at home with the proper kits or can be ordered from companies such as Vistaprint.
You may be creative in the design, but remember to keep it professional. Your business cards should include the following:
- Your contact information: name, phone number, and email; address is optional
- A link to your personal website/online portfolio/LinkedIn profile
- Brief summary of qualifications
Personal business cards will let others know how to contact you and refresh their memories of your career goals; they are much more professional than writing your name and number on a piece of paper.
Example message of introduction
Following is an example of a message for initiating contact in writing. With some alterations, it also could be used if your initial contact is via a telephone call.
Hello, my name is ______, and I am a student at Missouri State University. I am writing you to request adding you to my network and ask you a few questions regarding the ________ recruitment process.
As an admirer of _______, I was excited to come across the ______ internship. I recently applied and feel that I would be the perfect fit for this position. However, I am concerned about being overlooked in a sea of résumés. Do you have any suggestions for setting myself apart?
I am very interested in ________ at _________; therefore, any insight you could offer me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Follow up on leads
When you receive a contact referral, be sure to follow that lead. Contact the new person and let him or her know that someone referred you to them. Being introduced through a mutual contact is the best way to build relationships, and these contacts are more likely to help you than a stranger. Remember to be respectful of their busy schedules and keep these emails and conversations brief.
Be grateful to those who are willing to assist you, and send thank you notes. Within 24 hours of meeting with contacts or receiving a referral or job lead, send a letter thanking them for their contribution to your professional growth. These letters may be hand written, typed, or emailed, depending on the situation. Be sure to mention how they have helped you specifically, and be genuine. Showing gratitude is appreciated and demonstrates respect for the professional.
You are not likely to continue to help someone who has never offered to help you, so why would anyone else? If you want people to help you find a job/internship, you must be willing to help them in some way. This may include connecting them with someone who could help them, volunteering at their charity event, or even being a reference for an article. Find a way to help others, and they will be more likely to help you.
Keep in contact
Networking means developing relationships, but what is the point of doing all of this hard work if you do not maintain these relationships? Send email messages or make phone calls periodically to check in with your contacts, update them on your current situation, and offer your assistance on their current project. Just like friendships, professional relationships need to be nourished and maintained.