Building Your Professional Network
Networking can be as formal as registering with an employer-paid employment agency, or as informal as talking with a friend's dad at a backyard barbecue.
In any case, networking is about effectively communicating who you are, what job related, transferable and self-management skills you have, and in what career areas you are prepared to work.
Think about how you can communicate your interests:
- What is your passion?
- What field, product, or service motivates you?
- What do you enjoy researching or studying?
- What current events capture your attention?
Your ability to convey a passion or genuine enthusiasm about your career goals in your conversation will naturally inspire you and those around you. Networking is also about listening to people and asking the right questions to learn how they might be connected to your career goals, or whom they may know who can help you. Be careful not to drop the ball once you have been given advice or a lead to follow. Act on a lead as soon as possible and communicate back to the person who helped you. Send a thank you note to anyone who has helped you.
Identify Your Contacts
Make a list of people to develop your network and add names to your list with every new contact. Focus on scripture (e.g. read a chapter of Proverbs each day and reference Matt. 6:33-34, Phil. 4:6,7-8), for the wisdom and strength found in our Lord Jesus Christ to take the next step in an effective job search. Wise preparation combined with a motivation to succeed will enable you to overcome any fear.
Develop your network, by securing contact information of individuals from sources such as:
- References: Ask five people who would be willing to talk to potential employers about you.
- Professionals your references suggest you connect with—ask them for at least two names they think you should contact
- Professors, coaches, former employers, relatives, friends, church members and anyone they recommend
- Human resource directors, public relations officials, and public information specialists
- Members of professional associations
- Community service agencies or chambers of commerce
- Alumni contacts
- Credible networking/job search groups
Internship/career fairs and other networking events are excellent opportunities to make contacts.
Understand Informational Interviewing
Once you have identified people with whom you wish to speak, you can plan to request an information interview with them. To do this, ask a contact if you can schedule to meet with them for 15 minutes to answer questions about their work. Also ask if they will review your resume and offer any advice. Your objectives during an informational interview are to gather career information from a professional in your field of interest, discover where you might fit in an organization, and pursue leads provided as a result of your meeting.
Once the 15 minutes has passed, thank the person and ask for their business card. Ask them to provide you with the names of two people you might also meet with for an information interview. Prepare to stand up to leave. Chances are the person might ask you to continue talking with them, but at least you were courteous, professional and true to your word.
Send a thank you note within 48 hours mentioning you have appointments, (or have at least left voice mails requesting appointments), with both leads you were given and will let them know the results of the meetings.
Before making contact
Write an outline of what you want to say; this will decrease any fears you might have and ensure you obtain the information you are seeking. You will be perceived as organized and professional.
When calling to schedule an appointment:
- Introduce yourself stating your full name and credentials (your year in school, number of years of work experience, your major and areas of career interest).
- If you are calling as a result of a referral, state that person's name clearly in the conversation.
- State the purpose, (their opinion of your resume and answers to your prepared eight questions) for a 15 minute appointment sometime within the next two weeks.
- Record the appointment information in your planner.
By Letter or E-mail
A letter or e-mail should include:
- Personal introduction and mention a referral's name if appropriate
- Purpose for seeking the appointment
- Mention you will follow-up with a phone call within the week to ask if you can schedule a date and time within the next two weeks for a 15 minute appointment.
- See cover letter sample
- Type all letters in business format, checking for grammar and spelling errors.
- Ask someone else to proof your work.
- Indicate in the concluding paragraph that you will be calling on a specific date to arrange for a convenient appointment time (one week after you mail the letter).
- Maintain an organized file system of all letters sent with your follow-up notes.