Career Center

Networking General Information

Networking Resources

There are many terms for networking, such as “schmoozing”, “kissing up”, “hob knobbing”, and “building social capital”, many of which have negative connotations.  Regardless of what you call it, networking involves intentionally engaging people who may be able to assist you with your career exploration and it is an integral part of a successful job search.

Why network?

Today, about 70% of jobs, regardless of field, are found in the “hidden” job market and networking is a way to market your skills and interests so that potential collaborative partners and employers can find you.  It also presents opportunities to become more familiar with various career fields, organizations, and job opportunities. 

Building your Network

Networking does not need to be a “fake” or “extroverted” activity as some may assume.  Rather, the interaction is based on a genuine interest in a particular field or organization and it starts with people you already know.  The people in your network include colleagues, advisors, friends, family, and even acquaintances both in and out of your field.  Talk to them about their career decisions, make your own goals known, and ask them for ideas, names and contacts of people who could help you succeed.  Becoming involved in professional associations and formal networking events, as well as making use of alumni networks like the Career Advisory Network (CAN), may also help you build your network.  Request an informational interview with your new contacts and continue to keep up your relationships with them throughout your career.

Facilitating a Successful Informational Interview

Informational interviews present the opportunity to informally discuss your professional interests with representatives from various fields and organizations.  The steps below can help you understand and effectively execute the process:

Step 1: Making initial contact.  Contact may be made via letter, email, or telephone call and should briefly address why you want to meet, how you obtained the invitee’s information, and the ways in which your interests and experiences might relate to theirs.  If you do not hear back from them right away, it is okay to follow-up within 1-2 weeks, reiterating your sincere interest in meeting with them.  It is not typically recommended that you attach a resume or CV to your initial correspondence however, as this sometimes leads people to believe you are only applying for a job, not seeking out the valuable career information they can provide.

Step 2: Conducting the informational interview.  Upon meeting with your new associate, express enthusiasm and appreciation for the meeting. Your dress should match that of the industry, but casual business attire is customary when you are not certain of those standards.  Come well prepared to hold an efficient meeting and be intentional about the questions you ask about their experiences, field, and organization. For sample questions: Informational Interview Sample Questions.  It is acceptable in this stage to bring a copy of your resume or CV as a reference.  At the end of your meeting, thank them again and remember to ask to whom else you should also be speaking.   This final question allows you to continue building your network.

Step 3: Follow-up in a timely manner. Within a couple of days after the interview, email or handwrite a thank-you note that reiterates your appreciation and any plans that were made.  The message should be substantive, but brief.  Stay in touch with the person, even after you get a job elsewhere.  A key part of networking is maintenance!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

One of the biggest mistakes people make in the networking process is assuming they cannot do it.  As with anything, networking skills are honed with practice and organization.  Some interviews and interactions will go better than others, so keep trying.  Following every new interaction, be sure to write on each business card where and when you met the person.  Don’t forget to regularly organize and edit your business cards and contact information so that they are easily accessible. 

Another common mistake is assuming that networking is simply a way to collect names.  Rather, development and maintenance of the professional relationships you establish is as important as the development and maintenance of your personal ones.  As such, be strategic in who you contact and do not approach a potential associate without doing a little research first – on both them and yourself.

 

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