Networking is the process of making connections and building relationships with people, usually in your career field of interest. In today’s world, it is important to continually build a professional network. Not only can it increase the potential for job opportunities, but it can also improve your career satisfaction and add to your industry expertise. It’s important to remember that the goal of networking should be building authentic and mutually beneficial relationships and not just to gain access to job or internship opportunities.
- Share Ideas: networking is a great way to exchange ideas about a particular topic of interest. Maybe you are working on a presentation for class or have had experience working on a certain business plan. You can also have something to offer in a networking conversation that could benefit all those involved.
- Receive Career Advice: advice on what steps to take in your career path or what experiences can help you get to your career goals can be obtained from people your network who have experience.
- Gain Industry Knowledge: networking is a great way to learn more about your industry of interest. This can help you plan the next steps to take in your career.
- Potential Access to Employment Opportunities: the keyword here is potential. Networking is a great way to gain access to more employment opportunities. However, that should not be your only goal when it comes to networking.
How to Get Started
- Establish a Goal: determine why you want to make a connection and what you want to get out of the conversation.
- Identify People: make a list of people you would like to reach out to. Start with people you know to get yourself more comfortable.
- People You Could Contact
- Classmates or Colleagues
- Professors and Staff Members on campus
- Friends, Family Members, or Friends of Family Members
- Alumni (RamNation or LinkedIn Alumni Page)
- Teammates or fellow Club Members (Greek Life, Sports Teams, Student Organizations, etc.)
- People You Could Contact
- Prepare: create a list of questions you would like to ask. Try focusing on aspects of their experiences that will help meet your networking goal established in the first step.
Reach Out: send a message introducing yourself and explaining why you are looking
to connect. This can be done by email, phone, or through professional networking sites
like LinkedIn and RamNation.
- In-Person: if you find yourself at a networking event (like a career fair), reaching out looks a little different. You would approach the person you want to connect with, greet them, and then introduce yourself.
- Follow Up!: send a thank you note after your conversation. In addition to the thank you note, it’s a great idea to check in a few months later to check in with the person you made a connection with and update them on any progress or events since your conversation.
What is an informational interview?
An excellent, easy, and fun way to research careers is to talk to people working in jobs of interest to you. This is called Information Interviewing. Rather than an employer interviewing you for a job, YOU are the interviewer, asking questions to gather information, explore options, and make networking connections.
Why is this important to do? Information interviews are beneficial to:
- Explore careers and fields of interest
- Clarify your goals by getting advice from others and reflecting on what you learn
- Learn about job and internship opportunities not previously advertised
- Observe first-hand the culture of an organization, what the office environment is like
- Make networking contacts, people who might be useful in your future job search and career planning
- Practice your introduction/elevator pitch. This is what sets the tone for the rest
of the conversation. The elevator pitch is a brief introduction about your background,
career interests, and your goal of the conversation. The more you practice, the easier
it is going to be to introduce yourself.
- What to Include in Your Elevator Pitch
- Your Name
- Your Class Year
- Your Major & Why you are in it
- Your goals relating to your career
- Your strengths & skills
- How it relates to the position you are interviewing for
- What to Include in Your Elevator Pitch
- Determine what method of networking your prefer. Would you rather reach out through email? On LinkedIn? Or attend a networking event? Start with what you’re comfortable with and consider trying new ways to network as you grow in your experience.
- When attending a networking event, have a goal of talking to a certain number of people before the end of the event (3-5 is a great start!). This will give you a goal to stick to and reduce the chances of feeling lost in the crowd.
- Be genuine when having conversations. Don’t rush to give them your resume and to start talking about yourself. Show interest in who you’re talking to by asking about them and their accomplishments.
- Make a note after each person you talk to. This will help you remember what was talked about and help you with the content for your thank you note.
- Don’t get discouraged. If you don’t get what you intended to from a networking conversation, don’t give up. The benefits of networking rarely happen instantly. Continue to take the time to build your network.
- The connections and relationships you build should be nurtured. Take advantage of any opportunity to reconnect with the people in your network. The quality of the relationships you build in your network can help open up more employment opportunities in the future.
- Whether or not you expect to connect again with the person you had a conversation with, it is still a great idea to follow up and thank them for their time. You never know what the future holds and whether you will cross paths again.
Online Tools to build your connections
There are many ways to develop your connections in person. However, there are also great tools you can access instantly online that help you see how expansive your networking is while making it easy to see how it can grow. Two of those tools are LinkedIn and Ram Nation.
LinkedIn is one of the largest online professional networking tools. It is a perfect place to make new connections, strengthen existing relationships, and see the full potential of your network. By creating a profile, you can begin to generate your online brand that highlights your experiences and skills. It can also be used for job and internships searches, researching employers, and much more.How to Get Started with LinkedIn
LinkedIn Learning: West Chester University faculty, staff and currently enrolled students have FREE, unlimited access to a digital library of over 180,000 videos, covering a wide range of technical, business, software, and creative topics. Head to LinkedIn Learning to find out how to access this amazing content.
ProTip: Once logged in, search for the “Rock Your LinkedIn Profile” course for all your getting started basics.
Ram Nation is a flash mentoring platform where students and alumni can identify and connect with a mentor for an informational interview, job shadowing, mock interviews, and more! What is awesome about this platform is that WCU alumni have intentional volunteered their time to connect with students. They look forward to you reaching out and connecting with fellow Golden Rams to talk about any in the professional world.
Check out the Resources & Events section to find out more and claim your account.