Networking can take place at almost any time. Networking can include a pre-planned meeting or an impromptu conversation at a conference, career fair, information session or anywhere.
Networking isn't a one-time contact. Instead, networking is a long-term relationship in which you can develop ideas, ask questions and share experiences. Networking provides professionals the ability to solicit your help if you could be a useful resource or could provide expertise in a given area.
- The goal of networking is to exchange ideas, not seek a job.
- Be confident and energetic. Doing so will help others remember you and refer you to other contacts.
- Be punctual, as this shows that you are responsible and respect others' time.
- Follow up after meeting a contact. Send a thank-you note.
- Networking professionals agree that over-preparing is essential. A tip from Drake, Beam & Morin, human resources professionals, suggests a 10/90 ratio. For every 10 minutes you have a conversation with an individual, you spend 90 minutes preparing.
- Don't be afraid to let people know that you are job searching for the first time. A high percentage of people get jobs because someone knew someone else who was looking to fill "that position." If no one knows you are looking for a job, they can't refer you.
- Bring items like business cards, a leather portfolio with resumes, a pen, breath mints and your planner / calendar. These seemingly simple items can help you better connect with colleagues, business leads or potential employers.
Identifying People to Network With
The first step with networking is to identify people in your network. Your network is already quite large and you might not even know it. Consider family members, family friends, peers, classmates, social organizations, club members, advisors, professors, co-workers, former co-workers, recent graduates and service providers such as clergy, doctors and dentists.
It is not just about who you know, but who does your network know. Start by cultivating your personal network.
Online Social Networking
Social Media is revolutionizing the job search process while also opening new doors for networking that never existed before.
In 2011, 56% of businesses surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported using social media sites to recruit potential candidates. Of those who used social media for recruiting, 84% of survey respondents said they use those sites to recruit candidates who were not actively applying to their organization. Networking has always been the number one way to find a job. To set yourself up for success, we suggest you get connected.
According to the NACE 2011 Student Survey, nearly 70% of students with both a LinkedIn and Twitter account use them in the job search. In the same survey, nearly 71 percent of Class of 2011 seniors said they expect employers to view candidates' social networking profiles. Make sure your online presence will allow you to set yourself up for opportunities to come to you.
According to SHRM's 2011 survey, 95% of organizations that used social networking sites used LinkedIn for recruiting. LinkedIn is a great tool for networking with employers and professionals in almost every career path. You can think of it as a professional version of Facebook. To begin networking with employers through LinkedIn:
- Create your profile at www.linkedin.com
- Join groups like UF Alumni Association, which is is a great place to connect with UF Alumni (finding groups that relate to your field and career interests is also a great place to network)
- Be social. Add people you know to your network. Contribute to discussions and share information, as both are a great way to connect with professionals you might want to work for and show them you are a rising star.
LinkedIn even has a section specifically for college graduates. Check out their videos to become a master of social networking through LinkedIn.
Twitter can be a tremendous tool for networking and researching career fields. Follow people and organizations you are interested in to learn the latest information and get in on the conversation. Participate in live chats to connect with professionals and attract potential employers. Before you get started, make sure you understand how to use Twitter in a professional way.
Here are a few resources to help:
- How to Use Twitter as a Job Search Tool
- 20 Simple Tips for your Job Search
- Top 50 Employers on Twitter
An increasing number of recruiters today view candidates' Facebook pages for screening purposes. If you do not want a potential employer to see your uncensored personal life, change your privacy settings or clean up your profile. Your online presence is becoming more important and you do not want your Facebook page to prevent you from getting a job. Here are "10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know."
A good way for students to increase their online presence is to start a blog. While writing a blog takes more time and effort than maintaining a Facebook or Twitter account, it could be worthwhile. If you write about a field you are interested in, there's a chance that employers in that field will see it and get in contact with you. Also, if employers Google your name before an interview and see you have an insightful blog, they may be more inclined to hire you.
Networking Opportunities at the CRC
In addition you can utilize the UF Alumni Association's Gator Clubs to connect with professionals in your field.
Professional Organizations & Clubs
If you are new to a particular area, (1) choose a few committees or groups of interest, (2) attend their meetings and (3) investigate ways in which you can become more involved in the group's endeavors. By serving on a committee or subgroup, you may gain the opportunity to work closely with professionals and/or academicians in your field. These people will then have a chance to see your skills and abilities firsthand.
Networking at Conferences
Conferences and meetings are great opportunities to network with other professionals. Participants have specifically gathered to share their expertise with others in the profession. Start attending conferences as soon as possible to get in the rhythm of networking at these events.
Networking with Faculty
Faculty members are a tremendous resource to students at the University of Florida, especially graduate students. UF faculty are national and international experts. However, you need to take the initiative inviting them to share their wisdom and experiences with you. Networking with faculty is critically important for students wishing to pursue academic careers.
As you review faculty members, take note of the faculty members who:
- Have interests related to your own (in and out of your department).
- Have work you admire or respect.
- Can provide you with insight into your area of specialization.
- Have knowledge to provide information on career options.
Once you identify faculty members with similar interests, try to begin a relationship with them. These are great opportunities for conversation and mentoring. Start by:
- Going to office hours regularly.
- Attending departmental socials.
- Letting your faculty member/s know about your research and teaching preferences so that you may be advised of research, writing or teaching opportunities.
- Volunteering or applying to work on a research project with faculty.
- Inviting specific faculty members to be on your dissertation committee and soliciting their feedback throughout the writing and research process.
- Writing an article for publication and asking select faculty to review it and provide feedback.
- Volunteering to sit on a departmental or university committee of students and faculty in your area of interest.
- Attending national meetings/conferences at which departmental faculty will be present.
When you have identified potential networking contacts, the next step is to speak with them. An informational interview is a good low-pressure way to begin a conversation with a professional. Informational interviewing can provide you with first-hand information about a company, insight into current trends in a particular field, details on hiring, insight on skills/qualities they are seeking, experience speaking with employers and opportunities to build your network.
- Be sure to state that you are interested in researching or seeking advice when you initiate a contact. Do not ask for a job in your first contact.
- Ask for a 20-30 minute meeting at their convenience, at their worksite, and assure them you know they are busy and you will be brief.
- If you call, ask them if they are free to talk for a few minutes. If not, ask them for the best time to call them back.
- Prepare for every interview by researching the company and having a prepared list of questions to ask.
- Dress in business attire and arrive early for the interview.
- When you meet your interview contact, shake hands and exchange greetings. Take notes during the interview. At the end of the interview, shake hands again, and express your appreciation for the interview.
- Follow up every interview with a thank you note, by email or handwritten.
Start exploring your network for contacts, having a personal connection with someone will increase the likelihood of obtaining an informational interview. You can call or email to initiate a contact. Remember these tips:
Sample "script" for introducing yourself:
"Hi, Ms. Smith, my name is __________, and I'm a University of Florida student. I'm very interested in the marketing field and I'm trying to find out as much as I can about it. I have read a lot about the area, but I really feel it might help to talk to someone who works in the field. I would appreciate meeting with you to discuss this occupation, if you have the time. The interview would only take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. My schedule is flexible and I can meet with you at your convenience."
- What is a typical day in the life of a _______?
- How did you get interested in this occupation?
- What do you like and dislike about your occupation?
- What is a typical career path in this occupation?
- What kind of academic/training preparation do you recommend for this occupation?
- What is the projected growth in this occupation?
- What skills should I be developing?
- Are there any clubs or organizations you would recommend?
- What is the organizational structure and where does your position fit in the organization?
- Is there someone else you can suggest for me to contact?
- If you were going to hire a new entry-level person, what would a highly qualified candidate be like?
- What are the major challenges/problems that your organization is facing in the coming year?
Prepare your questions for the informational interview based upon your goals for the interview and the results of your research. Try to make them open-ended questions, meaning those that can be answered other than by "yes" or "no." The suggestions below may give you some ideas: