In order to make it in our careers, networking is part of the game. Even if we think it’s a rule that we shouldn’t have to play by, the reality is that networking is an invaluable tool in finding a job or internship. We’re hearing more and more, it’s all about who you know. Here are a few tips about how to build a network.
Professors. If you’re still in college, be sure to frequent your professors’ inboxes and offices. These are people who make a living out of caring for your success, so let them know you care about your future. Ask them if they know about any upcoming opportunities that are specific to your major. Ask them to proof a cover letter or for insights about an industry you’re interested in. These people are some of the best people you will come in contact with in your lifetime. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from them.
Former classmates: I went to school with a few people who are networking pros. They are the ones with all the connections, small talk skills, and firm handshakes. Since graduation, I’ve been in contact with a couple classmates inquiring about job opportunities and they’ve been eager and willing to help. Just because they learned in the same classroom as you, doesn’t mean they’re not full of valuable advice and connections.
Informative interviews: Reach out to someone who works at a local company in an industry you’re interested in. Tell them your situation and ask them if they would be interested in meeting up for a cup of coffee. [Note: Always, always buy the coffee.] [And write a thank you note.]
Networking events: You will hear about these frequently throughout your years of college. The dynamic at these events can sometimes feel rather forced, but it’s good to get out and
experience at least one or two of these events because they are useful tools in building relationships. [Note: You will not have a Grade A, LinkedIn-approved network after attending one networking event. It takes time to build a network, and it takes numerous experiences and tactics to build long-lasting connections.]
Conferences: I knew a few people in college who probably won the title of ‘most likely to succeed’ in their high school’s mock elections. These people knew what industry they wanted to go into and knew what steps they had to take in order to reach their goals. These are the people who sought out conferences for professionals in the industry and did what they had to do to get there. Industry-specific conferences are completely invaluable. Can’t afford the admission?
Call the directors of the conference, tell them your situation and ask them if you could help out at the conference.
The key thing to remember in networking is people really do want to help you, especially if you’re in college or recently graduated. People recognize they were once in that spot and will more often than not do everything in their capacity to help you out.