How many times have you been told that you need to network? Bet you’ve lost count. And yes, you need to network. But before we look at the why’s and how’s, let’s get clear on what networking done well really is.
Networking is the building of mutually beneficial relationships that align with our goals.
Do you have goals? I sure hope so. Do you think you can achieve them alone? I hope not. So now that we agree that you can’t not network, (and we do agree, right?) here are some idea and tips to get you started.
Start Networking Now ( ….and never stop)
Keep a notebook of your contacts. Categorize them as A’s B’s and C’s with your A’s being your closest contacts and so on. Include professors, advisers, current and former coworkers, your parents’ friends, etc. Each person is differently connected & uniquely positioned to be helpful.
Be a connector. Become known as a person who helps others connect to reach their goals. If you meet someone during your networking activities that could benefit from an introduction to someone else in your network, make the connection! You will enhance your relationship with both parties. Remember- good networking is a “give first, take second” proposition.
Create a personal “business card”. Business cards are still the currency of information exchange. It should include your contact information and a few words about the type of work you are seeking so people will remember you & what to remember you for.
Get clear on who you are and what you want
What do you do well? What type of work do you really want to do? What are your key skills? Don’t get caught up on titles- just be able to describe what you love, what you rock at and you will shine in your networking conversations. There’s nothing more frustrating in a networking conversation as a person who says “I am a fast learner, looking for a challenge working with good people.” Snooze.
Get used to thinking of yourself as a product. You are a collection of skills that you developed in the classroom, in your activities and at any jobs that you have had. Develop your message & talk from that ”big picture”
Use technology wisely
The Internet is great for researching information about companies, people, trends, and the “who knows who” that forms the basis for your networking. Yes, when you get your first job, you should be on LinkedIn & you know to be smart about what you put on Facebook. But social media is just an initiator.
Never doubt the power of the “face to face” meeting. The real networking magic starts when we connect, person to person. Create those opportunities. Ask people for their advice, how they got started in their careers. If their company is of interest to you, ask how you might fit. Never just come out and ask for a job. Ask who else you should be meeting. People typically love to help college students- as long as you show up prepared, focused, and serious. Mind your manners- and Mom was right- don’t forget those thank-you notes!
When you are meeting with contacts turn your cell phone completely off. Not vibrate. Off. If you are expecting an urgent call ( e.g. a family member in a serious health situation) tell your networking contact in advance. In no other circumstances should you be answering calls, texting or even glancing at your phone. If you feel you will be tempted, leave it in the car.
Building professional relationships can be fun, rewarding and best of all, can lead to new career opportunities. And I bet new career opportunities just might be one of your goals.
Guest poster Julie Bauke is a “Career Strategist” and President of Congruity Career Consulting. She is an engaging speaker, trainer and coach and is author of the entertaining and educational book “Stop Peeing On Your Shoes: Avoiding the 7 Mistakes that Screw Up Your Job Search”.