Networking

The Hiatt Career Center defines networking as the initiation, cultivation and management of productive professional relationships.

You're already doing it

Networking 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.

Benefits of Networking: What's in it for you?

The process of networking may help you to:

  • Build confidence in communicating with others
  • Learn industry trends and professional vocabulary from practitioners
  • Explore industries through an insider’s perspective
  • Identify skills and experiences of successful professionals
  • Develop personal criteria to make choices about careers
  • Improve interview skills through professional conversations
  • Expand your circle of professionals in your field or job function
  • Learn about jobs and internships with target employers
  • Give back by advising others

The Hiatt Career Center has organized the networking process into three steps: prepare, execute and manage.

PREPARE


Know yourself

The first step in preparing to network is to understand who you are, and be confident in identifying your values, skills, interests and motivations

Identify short-term and long-term goals

To make your networking encounters as beneficial as possible for both you and your networking contact, Hiatt encourages you to set both short and long-term goals for your professional relationships and individual conversations. Please know that these will change and adapt as you move forward in your career and acquire additional expertise. To get you thinking about your own networking goals, here are a few examples of both broad and specific goals and how networking can help achieve them.

Goal: Figure out what I want to do with my life.
How networking can help: Refine your interests, evaluate fit and match your values to career opportunities.

Goal: Find out if I’m qualified for a specific job/internship.
How networking can help: Talk to an employee who works at an organization of interest who can talk to you about the role and what type of candidate they seek.

Goal: Determine if I will fit in at a particular company.
How networking can help: Hear about your networking contact’s personal experiences at the company, which would enhance what you can learn from a company website.

Goal: Become a more impressive interviewer.
How networking can help: 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. Plus getting comfortable speaking to professionals during informational interviews will help you to display more confidence during a real interview.

Goal: Land a job or internship.
How networking can help: Did you know that 70% of people land their jobs through networking?

Goal: Expand my circle of professionals.
How networking can help: Networking can help you develop a network of contacts that may be helpful in the future. Meet future acquaintances, references, allies.

Goal: Become a more attractive candidate for a job/internship application.
How networking can help: Get information to put in your cover letter because you will identify skills and experiences of successful professionals. Learn industry trends and professional vocabulary from practitioners.

Goal: Decide between several career options.
How networking can help: 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. Plus, you’ll get exposure to a variety of job titles, personalities, and departments, making the search for your "niche" that much easier.

Identify suitable contacts

Networking contacts are everywhere. Some contacts will be people you know well, such as family and friends with whom you can interact with ease – you are already networking! With others, such as alumni, former employers or family members of peers, your interactions will be more formal, in particular if you are meeting them for the first time or if you know them only in professional settings. Use this brainstorming worksheet to identify potential networking contacts in your circle.

Note: Please do not get discouraged if you contact someone and do not hear back from him or her. Even the kindest, most well intentioned people can get caught during a busy time of the year, a crisis or day-to-day craziness. Please know that someone’s failure to respond is not necessarily a negative reflection on you.

You will continue to make new contacts naturally throughout your time at Brandeis and beyond as you: attend events, join student clubs, take new classes, get new jobs and internships, and more. You can also proactively identify additional contacts by using these two online tools: B Careers and LinkedIn.

Coming Soon! B Careers

B Careers is a searchable Brandeis-only database with thousands of Brandeis alumni who are willing to talk with Brandeis students about their careers. Brandeis seniors will be able to use B Careers to search for alumni who work in companies, fields and job functions of interest to you, then contact them for more information. To gain access to the database, you must complete Hiatt’s networking requirements.

LinkedIn

Commonly referred to as the “professional Facebook,” LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to identify and connect with potential networking contacts, research companies, and join professional interest groups. Watch this video from the LinkedIn Learning Center to find out how you can use LinkedIn to grow your professional network.

Learn more about LinkedIn and building your professional network by watching these videos from the LinkedIn Learning Center:

Create and update your LinkedIn profile

First impressions are important and your LinkedIn profile is often the first link that appears in a Google search for your name. Make sure your online presence matches the quality of your resume. Uploading your most current resume to your LinkedIn profile is a great place to start, but Hiatt can suggest other ways to make your profile more compelling to potential networking contacts and employers. Stop by during drop-in hours or log into HiattChat for tips and advice to polish up your LinkedIn profile.

At minimum, your LinkedIn profile should include:

  • An appropriate photo
  • A summary of who you are and why you’re on LinkedIn
  • A listing of your past experiences with detailed descriptions
  • Brandeis is listed in your education section with your major course of study (if declared)
  • These tips from LinkedIn can help you get started

Research: industry, job function, employer, contact

It is very important to prepare for networking conversations by learning as much as you can on your own about the industry, job function or employer of interest as well as the person with whom you will be speaking. Learn more about conducting industry, job and company research.

If you already know with whom you are meeting, be sure to visit the contact’s company website, search for the contact’s name online, and review the contact’s LinkedIn profile.

Prepare questions in advance

Now that you have set concrete goals for the conversation and know more about the industry, job function, employer and contact, you should be able to prepare a list of thoughtful, relevant questions to ask your contact. Unlike a traditional interview, YOU will be asking the majority of the questions in a networking interaction so it is important to craft them in advance. 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, or others may arise during the conversation itself, but at least you will be prepared if the person provides only short answers. For a place to start, check out these sample networking questions.

EXECUTE


Developing Your Communications Strategy

Clear, confident communication is key to a successful networking interaction. Whether you’re communicating with someone in-person, on the phone, or online – and whether you’re meeting them for the first time or the fiftieth – you should be able to comfortably articulate your values, skills, interests and goals for the conversation.

Introducing Yourself: The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch or elevator speech is a short summary used to quickly and simply introduce yourself and highlight your unique skills and qualifications. The name comes from the notion that the speech should be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator, usually 20 to 60 seconds. It can be a great way to start a conversation, especially with someone with whom you are unfamiliar. You’ll want to practice yours so it is ready to go when needed.

Reaching Out via Email/Phone

The most common way to make the first connection with a networking contact is in writing, either via email or brief letter. In some circumstances, as with a family friend or former employer, a phone call is appropriate. You’ll want to address the same things you would in writing. Download Hiatt's outreach template (.doc) to begin crafting your introduction, either via phone or in writing.

In both cases, your initial contact should set the stage for future conversations. You will want to make sure you address the following:

Who You Are

  • Provide a brief introduction of yourself
  • Mention the fact that you are a Brandeis student
  • For written correspondence, enclose a resume so the person knows your background

Why This Contact

  • Indicate why you are writing to this individual in particular
  • Briefly state your interests or experiences in the person’s field, organization, or location

What You Want

  • 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
  • Include how and when you will contact this person again

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.

What to say - 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.
  • 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 to talk about your interests and experiences – your contact will surely ask about them.
  • 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.

Networking Opportunities

Now that you know what to say, it’s time to start networking! There are many opportunities to network, both in-person and online. Remember, in all instances you are seeking information, ideas and referrals – not asking for a job or internship!

Events

Attending events is one of the most common ways to meet new people. Hiatt hosts many events on campus to help students network with alumni and employers, including industry career forums, information sessions, site visits, and more. Learn how Hiatt can help you connect with recruiters and alums.

Also, check out local calendars, professional organization websites, and University events to see if someone of interest is coming to your area.

Tips: Research potential networking contacts who will be attending; choose your top contacts to approach; practice your elevator pitch with InterviewStream; and (if applicable) attend Hiatt’s pre-forum prep workshops.

Informational Interviews

An informational interview is a networking meeting to learn more about a particular career path, industry, job function, organization, etc. An informational interview can take place in-person, on the phone, or via Skype. 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.

While Hiatt encourages you to set up your own informational interviews simply by asking a potential networking contact to speak with you using the templates above, Hiatt also offers scheduled informational interviews through our Office Hours program. Throughout the year, alumni and other professionals in various fields and job functions hold office hours at Hiatt and students can sign up for a one-on-one slot to speak with them about their career path. View upcoming dates in B.hired > Workshops. 

Tips: Be prepared to articulate your goals for the meeting; research your contact and their industry, job function and employer; prepare a list of questions to ask; and consider practicing your elevator pitch online using InterviewStream (accessible via the B.hired homepage).

LinkedIn/Hiatt’s Networking Group

The Hiatt Career Center moderates a professional networking group on LinkedIn for Brandeis students and alumni. By joining this group, you gain access to an extended community of Brandeis alumni who want to support you in achieving your career goals by offering advice, meeting with you for informational interviews, and answering the discussion questions you post. To join our group, you must have a LinkedIn profile, complete Hiatt’s networking requirements and request to join the group.

linkedin

Tips: Be prepared to clearly articulate what you want to learn from the member; double-check your post to the group for spelling and typos; and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date.

Wisdom Wanted Ads

Wisdom Wanted ads are specific requests for alumni career advice that Hiatt sends to our alumni e-mail list monthly. Students can write ads seeking advice on a variety of topics, from grad school applications to job opportunities in a specific field. When alumni want to respond to your ad, they will contact you directly via email. To submit an ad, you must have a LinkedIn profile, complete Hiatt's networking requirements and fill out this online form.

Tips: Be prepared to articulate your goals for the ad; get creative with the language in your ad; make your title eye-catching; and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date.

MANAGE


Show your appreciation

Immediately following your interaction, you should send a thank you note. Learn more about what you should include in your thank you note.

Follow through on next steps

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 should I now take?

Also, be sure to contact any additional people referred to you by your networking contact.  Within the first few sentences, mention your mutual connection as well as any particular reason why your original contact thought this new person might be helpful to you.

Recognize when and how to keep in touch or part amicably

Not all networking relationships will endure. This is perfectly normal and expected. If you feel that the relationship is no longer beneficial to you or your contact, or that you’ve reached your anticipated goals, you should simply part amicably, politely, and professionally. You may always return to these conversations, if desired, in the future. 

You’ll want to stay in touch with others as these relationships may lead to future job or internship referrals, letters of recommendation, and/or additional contacts. 

In most cases, it is important to keep your contacts informed. A simple email to check-in or update contacts is appropriate. If someone recommends an additional contact that was helpful, let your original contact know. Likewise, if a particular resource or research avenue was fruitful, tell the contact that as well. Networking contacts - especially Brandeis alumni - are often sincerely interested in helping and are curious about what ultimately happens in your career and academic adventures.

Reciprocate

Networking is a two-way street. You never know when someone may seek out your insights and advice in return. Hiatt encourages you to find time to share your resources, contacts, and information with other networkers - especially fellow Brandeis students and alumni - as you progress in your career.