Networking can be one of the most effective ways to find a job in your field of interest. It gives you an additional source of opportunities and an inside edge in today's job market. Developing a network can intimidate for a lot of students. Follow the guidelines listed below to become an expert at networking.
Advantages of Networking
- 75-95% of jobs are not advertised—tap into the "hidden job market".
- Less likely to encounter rejection. Not asking for a job, only information and referrals.
- Others know your skills and capabilities to share with potential employers.
- Get information about an employer before an interview.
- Be exposed to higher-level positions.
- Direct contact with people who have influence on hiring process.
- Make an impression by genuinely asking for advice about your career. Once you have established a favorable contact, it is likely that you will be considered for a job when it becomes available.
- It puts you in control, setting your own pace and course. It is a proactive job search method and is less stressful than sifting through tons of advertisements.
Successful Networking Steps
Make a List
- Keep a running list of contacts. Start with friends, family, neighbors, classmates, professors, and past employers.
- Monitor any upcoming Employer Presentations on campus sponsored by Career Services or other organizations. This is an excellent source to make direct contact with employers in your field.
Develop a Plan
- Identify your objective. Networking will be easier and more effective if you have clear objective.
- Prepare a one-minute commercial. Describe your major, career interests, work experience, extracurricular activities, and the type of information or job you are seeking.
- Be prepared to ask for help without asking for a job.
- Make a good impression on your contacts by being well informed about their organization and their position. For help, see Employer Research.
- Network online. Join LinkedIn professional network group and network with EIU alumni.
- Join one or two professional associations in your field and attend the local meetings or regional or national conferences if possible.
- Volunteer for a community organization.
- Contribute to a professional blog or listserv. Excellent way to get your name associated with quality and expertise within your industry.
- Serve on a committee for your professional organization or give a conference presentation.
- Carry business cards with you at all times and ask for business cards from others at meetings.
- Contact as many people on your list as possible. Let everyone know you are searching for people to talk to about your career. Many people enjoy talking about their jobs and are flattered to be considered experts in their fields.
- Request and conduct an informational interview. Sample questions:
- How did you get started in this field?
- What skills or training are required?
- What do you find most rewarding about your work?
- What type of advice would you give to young people who want to enter this career?
- What is the job outlook in this field?
- What do you do in a typical day?
- What types of people do you work with?
- Always send your resume and a thank you note to a contact after an Informational Interview or phone conversation.
- Let your current network of contacts know where you are and what you are doing.
Networking at Social Events
One area that is especially effective is face-to-face networking at professional social events, such as conferences and business receptions. Follow these simple guidelines to learn how to become a pro at "working the room".
- Have a game plan. If you know who is attending ahead of time, make a plan on how many people you definitely want to make a connection with. Keep in mind that it's not always a quantity vs. quality game.
- Move just inside the door and survey the room. Move toward friendly faces or an already formed group.
- Stand near the food table or in the center of the room, not against the walls.
- Don't just hang out with friends and co-workers and don't monopolize any one person.
- Circulate every 5-10 minutes.
- Carry business cards with you if possible to easily give out your contact information.
- To join in a group conversation, walk up, listen for a few moments, and make a comment that does not change the subject.
- Don't interrupt. Don't barge into a conversation either. Make eye contact with at least 2 people first.
- Initiate conversation with someone who is standing by themselves.
- Compliment a group member on their attire or a comment they made.
- Develop opening lines: "Great Party!", "How are you?" or "Where are you from?" Or self-revelations: "I'm a little nervous meeting all of these people".
- Introduce yourself and offer a FIRM handshake.
- Offer your entire hand, grasp firmly "web-to-web", shake lightly 2-3 times and release.
- Offer your name, repeat their name when given and say something pleasant.
- Be careful of the "wet-noodle", "bone-crusher" and "fingers-only" handshakes.
The Art of Small Talk
- Real art comes in how you keep the conversation flowing.
- Don't monopolize the conversation. Ask questions and listen intently. Then elaborate on what they said and ask another question.
- Best topics: sports, books, theater, movies, food, travel, current events.
- Taboo topics: your health, your love life, gossip and controversial or off-color stories.
- Be prepared to talk about the recent advances in your industry. Read association newsletters, magazines or surf the web on related subjects before you go.
- Respect personal space. Don't stand closer than 3 feet to someone else unless the room is very crowded.
- Prepare an answer to the question, "So, what do you do?".
- If someone enters your conversation group, welcome them and make introductions.
Existing the Conversation
- Know when it is time to move: you are bored or the group is dwindling.
- Plan where you will head before you exit the group.
- Your final words should have a positive spin. Tell them how you've enjoyed talking with them and then discuss the next steps you plan to take as a result of speaking with them. "I've really enjoyed talking with you, but I don't want to monopolize your time. I'll send you that article when I get back to my office."
- Leave a positive final impression with a smile and a firm handshake.
- Offer your business card if appropriate.
- If someone new approaches and you let them in, make your exit.
Eating and Drinking
- Hold your drink in your left hand with a napkin, so that your right hand is free to shake.
- If you are standing up and mingling, don't eat and drink at the same time.
- NEVER overindulge in alcohol.
- Don't overload your plate. Pick your favorite items and then just nibble and stay away from messy foods and finger foods.