You’ve heard it a million times. The best way to get a job or internship is through your network. But, where to begin? I’ve attended my share of networking meetings, mixers and also presented workshops on networking and I have to say there a few themes that standout in making the whole “networking” experience successful.
1. Don’t make it complicated. Networking is just a fancy word for talking to people you already know and developing new relationships. It’s about connecting with your current friends, family members and colleagues but with the intention of letting them know what it is you are looking for and asking for their assistance in reaching that goal.
2. Pay it forward. The people who I’ve met that were most memorable or unique were the ones who actually cared about what my needs were as well as sharing their needs with me. In other words, it’s not all about you! Kindness and generosity go a long way. The holidays are perfect time to reconnect with people in your current network and thank them for their support or their friendship. In return, they will ask what you are up to–and this is your chance to share what you are seeking. Example:
You: “Hey Uncle John, it’s so good to see you. How have you been? I loved seeing your family photos on Facebook. How are things with work and your family?
Uncle John: “Oh thanks for asking…things are going great and I’m super busy trying to juggle work and being a new dad. What are you up to, how’s school?
You: “Wow, I can imagine you have a lot on your plate. If you ever need a break I’m happy to babysit sometime (offering something first!). School’s actually going really well and I love my XYZ class. Only challenge is now that I know what I really like I’m not sure how to get an internship or some experience. How did you get started in your career? (asking for information second!)
Uncle John: “I totally understand. What kind of internship are you looking for? You know what, our company hires HR interns OR…”you know what I have a good buddy who works in HR, I can connect you two if you want…”
Simple, but you just networked!
3. Make time to reach out. I hear many people say, “I just don’t have time to network.” Truth is…You do! Are you on Facebook? Are you on LinkedIn? Do you tweet? Social networking has made it very easy to connect and stay in touch. Once you reconnect with some people on-line be sure to make some time to meet in person. Social networking is great, but face-to face networking is still important to making meaningful relationships. Plus, it’s the holidays, everyone is home or visiting and it’s the perfect time to meet up with people in your network
4. How do I meet new people? This by far is the hardest part of the networking process—making new contacts. The key is to identify what you are looking for and figure out what you might have in common with other people. As a student the number one thing you have in common with a large base of people is your university affiliation. That’s right, the best group of people to reach out to are alumni. Alumni have an understanding of what you are going through as a student, have professional connections, and are willing to help you learn more about their careers and offer advice. Go to www.linkedin.com today, make your profile (it’s easy and free) and then join some groups related to your major and field of interest. If you search for SJSU in the group search box you will find over 100 SJSU related groups that are open to SJSU students. These group forums post discussions on industry trends, job and internship opportunities and offer you a way to connect with “your people.” **Remember, this is a professional network, it’s not Facebook, keep it clean and professional.
5. Say thank you and follow up! If you do meet new people take the initiative to follow up with them and thank them for their time or shared resources. Again, of those people that I have met, the ones that I remember and want to continue to support in my network were those who sent me an email or follow up message. The super stars also shared something helpful related to what I had stated I was seeking…for example, an interesting article or name of a person I should follow up with. You can be sure that in the future I will not only remember who they are but will do my best to be helpful to them as well.
Feeling inspired to connect? Check out these networking groups and resources:
Anita has worked in the career counseling and higher education field for the past 12 years. She has worked in the recruiting field as well as internship program management for higher education. Anita works with students on all career related topics and specializes in development of creative programs to support career education.