- What is networking?
- Why should I network?
- How can I make networking contacts?
- Where can I network?
- What do I do once I've found someone to speak with?
- What should I ask when networking?
- What is LinkedIn and how do I use it to network?
Worksheets in Word:
- If you haven’t done so already, create a profile on LinkedIn.
- Request to join Hiatt’s Networking Group.
Networking is the process of developing and maintaining relationships and personal connections that might be helpful to you and your career, both now and in the future. It can be formal or informal and can take place at any time. If you’ve ever talked to a professor, chatted with a family friend, or made conversation with someone on a plane, then you’ve already participated in networking. In addition to these interactions, Hiatt encourages you to take a more intentional and professional approach.
Gathering information about a job, career, industry and/or geographic area will help you to:
- Decide between several career options. First-hand, up-to-date, and industry-specific information will provide a more thorough understanding of a field, beyond what you may have ascertained through course work or other outside research.
- Get exposure to a variety of job titles, personalities, and departments, making the search for your "niche" that much easier.
- Learn where you might fit within a particular organization.
- Become a more impressive interviewer. A clearer perspective of the culture within an industry or organization can help you determine what skills are required and how you might best showcase those skills in an interview.
- Gain confidence in talking with people.
- Meet with potential employers in a more relaxed environment than a formal interview.
- Develop a network of contacts that may be helpful in the future.
Networking contacts are everywhere. Consider the following list when deciding whom to contact:
- Friends, family, supervisors, co-workers, coaches, and acquaintances
- Casual encounters on a plane or bus, while waiting in lines, at social gatherings, conferences, lectures, etc.
- Industry-specific professional organizations - many have no or low cost memberships for students
- Professors - faculty have a wealth of information about specific disciplines, particularly in their research areas or community involvement, and are also a good resource for those considering graduate school.
- Brandeis alumni - you are guaranteed to have at least one thing in common: Brandeis! Join Hiatt’s Networking Group on LinkedIn
- People you have heard about, including targeted employers, prominent people in the community, etc.
Networking can happen almost anywhere.
Attending events is one of the most common ways to meet new people. Check out local calendars, professional organization websites, and University events to see if someone of interest is coming to your area.
Many people are using social media tools to reach target audiences. While you may find a contact using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media site, Hiatt recommends using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to find past and present colleagues and classmates, research companies, join interest groups, and find potential employer connections. Learn more about creating your profile and using LinkedIn. In addition, consider joining Hiatt’s professional networking group, especially for Brandeis students, families, and alumni. Learn how to join.
An informational interview is a formal networking meeting to learn about a particular career, industry, organization, etc. It can be one of the most valuable ways to network because it can provide you with an intimate, insider’s perspective that other sources cannot replicate.
Just as you need to prepare for a formal job interview, preparation for an informational interview is just as important. Learn as much as you can about your interviewee. Visit the company website, search for the interviewee’s name on the internet, and/or review their profile on LinkedIn.
Unlike a traditional interview, YOU will be asking all the questions so come prepared with interesting questions. See sample networking questions below.
You should regard each interview as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Regular business attire is appropriate. Be sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, the correct pronunciation of his/her name, and the title of his/her position. Remember the appointment time and arrive promptly.
The most common way to make the first connection with a networking contact is in writing. An email or brief letter is preferable. In some circumstances, as with a family friend or former employer, a phone call is appropriate.
Your initial contact letter should:
- Provide a brief introduction of yourself
- Mention the fact that you are a Brandeis student
- Indicate why you are writing to this individual
- Briefly state your interests or experiences in the person’s field, organization, or location
- Request more information and advice (do not ask for an internship or job)
- Set expectations - you are initially asking for roughly 15-30 minutes of their time
- Enclose a resume so the person knows your background
- Include a sentence about how and when you will contact this person again
- Be free from errors and misspellings
After sending your initial message, be sure to follow up. Usually this involves a phone call to set up a phone appointment or an in-person meeting. Never expect the person to phone you.
Once You Connect
- Be polite! Aside from the expected common courtesy, you never know who this person knows or what type of resource they may be for you in the future. Dress professionally for your meeting as a sign of respect. Consider each person you talk with part of an ever-expanding network of contacts, and make a good impression in the hopes that the person will welcome you into their network as well.
- Ask thoughtful, appropriate questions. You should expect to have about 10-15 questions ready to ask for a half hour conversation. You may not get to ask them all, and other questions may come to mind during the conversation itself, but at least you will be prepared if the person provides only short answers.
- Really listen to what the person tells you. Although you are actually in charge of the interview, you should be prepared to talk half of the time and listen the other half. If the person wishes to talk more, you will know that immediately. Just be prepared with things to talk about and have solid questions.
- Be prepared for the person to ask you about your interests and experiences - they surely will.
- Take notes. While it is important to maintain eye contact during in-person meetings, taking notes also demonstrates interest in what the person is saying. Make sure you write the person's name and the date on your notes so that you can refer back to them, either for your own purposes or when having a follow-up conversation with that contact.
- Keep the conversation relatively short. Whether you are talking by phone or in person, respect that the other person has many demands on his/her time. If they are available or wish to give you more time than you have requested, they will let you know. Be aware of the time that has passed and when there is a break in the conversation near the end of the time you requested, thank the person and politely end the conversation. If you are meeting in person, ask the person for a business card so that you can send a thank you note.
After Your Conversation
- Send a thank you note.
- If the person referred you to another friend or colleague, state your plan of action for contacting that person.
- Reflect on the conversation. Go back over your notes to make sure the information is clear. Also, make note of any impressions you have from the conversation. Ask yourself:
- What did I learn from this interview (both positive and negative impressions)?
- How does what I learned fit with my own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.?
- What more would be helpful to know?
- What plan of action can I make?
- Contact people referred to you by the person you spoke with. Make sure to immediately mention the mutual contact as well as any particular reason why the person you originally spoke with thought this new person might be helpful.
- Keep your contacts informed. If your original contact referred you to someone who was helpful, send him/her a quick note with that information. Likewise, if a particular resource or research avenue was fruitful, let the person know that as well. Networking contacts -- especially Brandeis alumni -- are often sincerely interested in helping if they can and are curious about what ultimately happens in your career adventures
- How did you get interested in and get your start in this work?
- Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college?
- What do you do in your job? What is a typical day? (What did you do yesterday, today, tomorrow?)
- What is the necessary or recommended education or training?
- What do you like and dislike about this job (organization)? Why? Do you find it exciting or boring? Why?
- How has your job affected your lifestyle?
- What are entry level opportunities? Can you describe them?
- What is the salary range, both entry-level and higher? Is there a ceiling?
- What are the prospects for advancement?
- What are the different jobs in this field or organization?
- What is a typical career path in this field or organization?
- What position is best for learning as much as possible?
- Is there any type of training program? What skills are necessary and what experience?
- These are my strongest assets (skills, areas of knowledge, personality traits, values). Where would they fit in this organization? Where might they fit in other fields? Where might they fit in other organizations?
- How would you describe the working atmosphere and the people with whom you work?
- Is there a basic philosophy of the company or organization and what is it? (Is it a people, service, or product oriented business?)
- Can you suggest reading material that might give me further insight into this field (organization)?
- Whom else would you recommend that I speak to for advice?