Networking is a means of using personal and professional contacts to increase the likelihood of completing a successful job search. Essentially, you speak to people that you know about your career interests and goals and request their assistance in helping you find employment. Keep in mind that you are not asking these individuals for a job, you are asking for advice and information. In this way, you can have 10 to 20 people helping you with your job search.
Your initial contacts may assist you directly, with job leads and information about the people and problems in your field or indirectly, through helping you get you in touch with other people they know who may be able to help you. It is important to remember that networking is a two-way street. Just as your contacts are in a position to help you, you should make an effort to help them in any way you can. One way to do this is by learning their goals and interests as well and passing along information and opportunities that you think they may appeal to them.
Many students are reluctant to use networking in their job search. The thought of it makes them uncomfortable and nervous. To be sure, doing anything new and foreign is difficult but the payoff here is worth any discomfort initially experienced. It is often helpful to recall that most people enjoy helping others, particularly if they are asked for advice and are being regarded as an expert or someone in the know. To help you start networking, the process has been broken down into a series of manageable steps.
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY CONTACTS
You should be able to name at least 20 names right off the bat. Some of these people may not be familiar with the field you are interested but that does not exclude them from being a good contact. Essentially, include anyone you know who knows and respects you that would be willing to take some time to discuss your career plans. Some possible sources for contacts:
Sample Network Contact Record
To keep track of further contacts with this person, use the back of the index card and paperclip additional cards to it. Some of you may find it simpler to keep your contact logs on computer.
STEP TWO: ESTABLISH GOALS
Decide on the number of contacts you will make each week and devote a certain time to do so. Make sure it is a good time for making phone calls, setting up meetings, etc. You will also need time to set up and update you records.
STEP THREE: PREPARE AND PRACTICE YOUR SCRIPT
Similar to the presentations discussed in the interviewing section, you need to consider what it is you will say to your contacts about yourself and what you are requesting. If you choose to fully write out your script, ensure that it is conversational in tone (as opposed to the more formal language of written communication) and that it does not come across as a "canned" speech. You will probably want to consider a separate introduction for those contacts that you know well and those you have not yet met.
You will want to include a one or two minute self-introduction:
Anticipate some questions your contact may have for you and prepare answers.
Prepare some questions to ask the contact. A good one that can really start a conversation going and get the person interested is to ask them to outline their own career path and their current goals.
Plan and prepare for any objections you may encounter. Don't let an objection immediately end the conversation, keep your listeners needs in mind and offer ways around the objection.
STEP 4: MAKE CONTACTS
Choose the method that provides the best chance for your target to get the message personally. Their direct phone line (be prepared with a brief message in case you get voicemail) and e-mail are two good bets.
If you cannot get to them directly, be courteous with everyone you encounter and do not ask them to set up appointments for you. Politely explain what you looking and ask if you can call back at a later time to see if your potential contact is available or if they know of anyone else who may be able to help you.
STEP FIVE: AT THE MEETING
STEP SIX: FOLLOW UP
Follow up within a week of your meeting. A thank-you note is appropriate after any meeting or substantive telephone conversation. Keep your eyes open for anything of interest to your contacts and send it to them. When you attain a career goal let your contacts know and thank them again for their help. If your contact is to get more information to you, follow up periodically (without becoming bothersome) or determine ahead of time when you should contact them for it.
Job search skill books covering networking are available in the campus Career Resuorce Centers. See a list of available titles.
The following online networking tips are also available:
The Women's NetworK
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