Demystifying Networking

October 22, 2014

Demystifying Networking: 10 tips to making successful connections

Even just hearing the word Networking may conjure scary images of a room full of strangers, all eyes on you, waiting for you to make the first move.

Step 1: disregard this initial reaction and think more along the lines of a quick conversation, or an opportunity to learn more about someone else and the work that they do. Networking has many benefits for students, young professionals and experienced professionals alike. It can be a starting point to explore a field or career path of interest or to connect with professionals to begin your internship search.

Networking is key for developing professionally, staying connected to individuals throughout your career and exploring the hidden job market which accounts for up to 80% of jobs!

By understanding what scares you the most about networking and then determining how to overcome your fears, you will soon be well on your way to building and maintaining a professional network of people to stay in touch with upon graduation and beyond.

Networking can be as casual as talking to your aunt's best friend at a birthday celebration, who happens to work at a company you are interested in, or as formal as a job and internship fair. Networking occurs everywhere and at any point during your day where you may converse with others.

Maybe you step into an elevator with an employer who is visiting campus for the day and you start a conversation about an alumna you know, that previously worked with them. This initial introduction could turn into a follow-up phone conversation, which turns into an in-person interview and then, voilá, a job offer.

The following list offers advice for preparing yourself for networking, and building and maintaining successful connections.

  1. Start Early! Even if you are not considering doing an internship or beginning your job search this semester, attend an employer information session and start talking to potential employers to build your network.
  2. Reframe Networking! Devora Zack, in her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking, discusses the idea of "reframing networking as an opportunity to create meaningful connections, requiring skills such as listening, focus, and depth".
  3. Use open-ended questions to facilitate the conversation.
  4. At networking events, approach groups of threes versus pairs. This allows you to join the conversation without interrupting.
  5. Practice your elevator "pitch", (a great way to introduce yourself), by following this easy to use format: Student Elevator Pitch
  6. Know when the conversation is coming to an end and make sure to ask for a business card! Once you have left the conversation, jot down some key points that you discussed during your chat and this will help you with following-up!
  7. Follow-up is key, connect with new contacts on LinkedIn or send a follow-up email.
  8. Join professional associations within your field and attend local conferences to meet colleagues. Volunteer to help event coordinators at a conference and in turn meet new people.
  9. Apply for internships  or summer jobs in your field of interest. Working with people is the best way to start networking, and the best part is that they can share their networks with you.
  10. Set up informational interviews. Learn more about informational interviewing here.

Additional Resources:

Photo: courtesy of Ongkor