Intro to Networking

What is networking? Networking is the art of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.
During your college career and throughout your work life, you will have opportunities to attend professional and social events where guests "network." Many people assume incorrectly that networking is only about finding jobs. While attending a networking event rarely lands you a job, it could help you create relationships that eventually leads to a job. If you make one valuable contact at a networking event, it's worth the time you invested to attend.

People often expect an immediate pay-off from networking. However, creating meaningful, lasting connections with people takes time. Building a powerful network also re-quires you to help others as much as they help you. As you meet new contacts, listen for ways you can help them. Over time, your generosity will be rewarded. In this modern era, you have the added benefit of being able to use social media to also build and maintain your network.

Preparation for a Networking Event

  • Research the organization and companies that will be in attendance at a networking event. Knowing your audience, and even specific people you wish to speak with, shows you are informed.
  • Dress for success. This may be the first time you meet a prospective employer and you want to dress professionally.
  • Use cards and notes. Bring business cards with your contact information (you can have them easily printed at an office supply store) and bring a pen to make notes regarding the contact you make for follow-up if you receive business cards.
  • Develop your script. Having a 2 sentence introduction already prepared and practiced shows confidence and preparing open ended questions will help you keep the conversation flowing.

Execution During the Event

  • Arrive early.
  • Fake it till you make it – walking into a room with confidence and engaging in a conversation will come through. Appearing approachable by relaxing your arms by your sides, eye contact and smiling all help you get into conversations.

Follow-Up After a Networking Event

  • When exchanging business cards with a contact you wish to follow-up with, ask their preference as to how they like to be contacted; some prefer email, others by phone.
  • Don't delay. 48 hours is the time frame in which many contacts will still be able to remember your conversation.
  • Maintain the relationship. It is important to stay in touch with valuable contacts to cultivate the relationship. Invite them to professional events your company may be hosting or introduce them to other contacts they may benefit from and always follow-up.

The Benefits of Networking

  • Increase your visibility by being seen at professional, social and community events
  • Expand your pool of contacts
  • Learn new things that can be helpful in your career
  • Build your personal brand
  • Gain access to powerful and influential individuals
  • Expand your sphere of influence
  • Increase your marketability
  • Position yourself for new career opportunities

Using LinkedIn to Build Your Network

  • Tell your network that you are seeking a new position through your status updates. However, use caution if you are seeking a job from a current position.
  • Stay active on LinkedIn. Post relevant updates that relate to your career path and participate in groups.
  • Find out where people with your background are working and start connecting. You can do a search using your geographic area and key words from your profession. You can also make use of the LinkedIn alumni tool. Simply go to >Network > Find Alumni.
  • Find the hiring manager. LinkedIn's job search engine lets you search of any job you want. If you find one that you are no more than two degrees away from when you view results, it means you know someone who knows the person that posted the job.
  • If you can't find the hiring manager, you can still use LinkedIn to find someone inside a company that can walk your resume to the HR department. This method will likely get your credentials more attention than submitting you resume electronically.

Networking takes time and effort, but like any relationship, the time you invest can pay incredible dividends. You're never too young or too old, too inexperienced or savvy professionally to start networking. We can all benefit from expanding our group of contacts. Get going...and always remember to smile – it's one of your most effective relationship-building tools!