What is networking?

Networking is not asking for a job. You are asking for advice on your resume, your job search, who they would recommend that you contact for an informational interview, and information about specific types of jobs. By letting many people know that you are in the job market and the type of position you are seeking, you increase the chances of learning about opportunities that are not advertised.

Here are successful strategies for networking.

Start by making a list of all your contacts. Include people that you know well and acquaintances. Begin with your family and then expand your list to include friends, neighbors, classmates, and professors. Along with names, include phone numbers, e-mail addresses, current employer, title, and how you know this person. Any additional personal details may also make it easy to start the conversation.

Knowing that your contact has a daughter who plays the flute may allow you to open the conversation in a courteous, gracious way. The list of people to include will depend on your goal, but don't leave anyone out. You never know when someone has a contact or knowledge of opportunities. See below for additional categories from which to draw your contact list.

Next, create a draft e-mail or phone script that can be easily targeted to each contact. If you are speaking by phone, ask permission to mail or e-mail your resume. Be sure that your resume is well written, is easy to read, and targets the type of position or industry that interests you.

Now, start dialing and e-mailing. Set a goal of contacting at least 5 to 10 people on your list each day. Keep notes of who you contact and what was discussed. This will require time and effort, but having this information in the future will be very helpful as you begin sending out resumes and interviewing.

Be specific in letting people know the type of position or industry that interests you. It is easier for your contacts to be helpful in identifying an opportunity for an entry-level accountant than "a job, any job."

Remember all that time and effort you spent networking and how it helped you land the perfect job? Well, networking also requires reciprocity; so be ready to return the favor after you are established in your career by networking with students and new graduates. As you progress along your career path, you will gain knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences that you can share. When you receive requests for advice and informational interviews, remember how helpful they were to you. Mentoring others can be a very rewarding experience.

Everyone you know and everyone they know is part of your network. Use the following categories to help identify people in your network.

  • Close relatives and extended family
  • Friends, neighbors, parents of classmates
  • Classmates, professors, counselors, alumni, fraternity/sorority/organization members
  • Employers, colleagues, clients, suppliers, competitors
  • Professional contacts, including lawyers, doctors, dentists, clergy, bankers, professional societies
  • Community contacts, such as store owners, chamber of commerce members, newspaper editors, librarians, public officials

How can I use informational interviewing to network?

Informational interviewing is one of the most commonly used forms of networking. The idea is to tap into the knowledge and experience of others in your field.

  • Make a list of fields that interest you. Don't be limited by geographic location or pay scale. You are gathering information to use in making career decisions— not making final choices!
  • Research those careers and determine if you are still interested. Even if you think salary, education, or geographic location might stop you, continue the research if you find the particular field interesting. In today's high tech world, telecommuting could be a viable option in many career fields.
  • Identify companies, industries, and positions that represent your areas of interest. Call, write, or e-mail and ask for an informational interview. Be clear in your request; you are seeking information and advice, not a job. Never ask for a job in an informational interview because it breaks the trust and rapport you have worked hard to develop with this contact.
  • Develop a set of questions to gather the necessary information you need to make career decisions. Use the same set of questions in each interview so that you can compare answers from a variety of people within the industry.
  • Refine your list of questions as you gather information. If an interviewee provides information that brings up new questions, use this to reconnect with prior contacts. Send an e-mail asking for their input on the topic.
  • Start contacting individuals or companies for informational interviews; you must be persistent as well as brave. It is never easy to ask for help, but networking is a very effective job search strategy.
  • Remember, you are seeking information on which to base long-term career strategies. It may take numerous requests for informational interviews before you receive an affirmative reaction. It is imperative to make as many contacts as possible. Perseverance is the key to informational interviewing. Many people will be very happy to share their experiences and expertise with you, so don't give up if you receive several negative responses.
  • Mentor other people; it can be a rewarding experience.  As you progress in your career, you will gain knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences that you can share. When you receive requests for informational interviews be willing to take the time to communicate with students, remember how helpful they were to you.

More resources...

Some resources and programs that will help you develop your networking knowledge and skills.

Career Resource Library
Career Center Seminars
Career Expos
Related Resources on the Web

Networking sounds simple —

Use your existing contacts to identify potential employers and learn about available jobs. And it is simple; speaking to people you know and asking for their advice is a straightforward job search method. However, it requires time, effort, and organizational skills to keep up with all the information you will gain.

Consider using LinkedIn —

An interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.

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