Basics for Everyone
Networking takes place when you are:
- Meeting new people and adding them to your list of contacts
- Cultivating relationships and staying in touch with people you know
- Exchanging ideas, information, resources, leads, or encouragement to help or be helped by others in one's professional career pursuits
Any situation that allows interaction with other people is an opportunity to network. Although all networking activity centers on meeting people, developing relationships, and sharing information and resources, how you network will often be determined by where you are in your career and the goals you have established.
As students, networking goals center around the development of contacts within a particular field, learning as much as possible about potential jobs or career tracks, and obtaining leads for potential internship opportunities. Typical networking activities of a student might include:
- Meeting with career services or professors to discuss potential networking leads
- Conducting informational interviews within organizations or industries of interest
- Involvement in professional organizations and on-campus events for the purpose of meeting potential new contacts and developing relationships
- Attending networking events primarily to gain experience and practice sharing your "elevator speech"
When job seeking, you may conduct many of the same activities, but they focus is on landing a job. Your success will depend on the strength of your network and the energy that you have put into the relationships in the past. If you are job hunting now you can still develop a working network with your existing relationships. But for everyone else, start now! Don't wait until you are looking for a job to begin networking. If you build the relationships when you don't need anything from them, you will have a great amount of leverage when you do.
Those settled in an established career also can significantly benefit from an active professional network. Yet, their goals are more related to the exchange of information, advice, encouragement, resources and leads as it pertains to the furtherance of professional goals.
Regardless of where you are in your career and what your current networking goals are, keep in mind these tips to make certain you succeed at connecting with people and are able to glean the benefits of a vital and healthy network:
- Know yourself, and be able to clearly share who you are and your interests/career goals with others when given the opportunity.
- Be proactive. Continually find ways to meet and engage with people wherever you go. Make time in your schedule to invest in your current relationships.
- Give and take in your networking relationships. Be sure you are investing in your network to build the relational capital from which you can draw in times of need.
- Be a learner and a listener in your interactions with others. Seek to continually learn from other people. Listen to their passions and career pursuits so you can identify ways to invest in them.
- Seek common ground among those in your network. Identify connection points such as similar visions or interests upon which you can develop a relationship.
- Communicate often with your network. This could be a phone call, an email, a note or even a face-to-face meeting. Say thank you when appropriate, and always seek ways to give back.