The Importance of Networking / College + Career

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The Pure Empathy Education Group 

The Importance of Networking / College + Career

Networking is a very helpful activity to get involved in when seeking employment, pursuing or finding a career of interest, or obtaining a personal skill or growth as an individual.

Many people have agreed that it’s all about who you know in the working world. Networking with the right people in your industry can open doors for you and help your career flourish. Consider this your guide to networking.

What can networking do for me?
For starters, networking helps you acquire contacts, information and helpful advice surrounding your industry, which is exactly what you need to do when job hunting.

If you’re quite shy, start small; make a list of everyone you know; family, friends, neighbors, classmates and anyone else you can think of – the more contacts you have, the more information you’ll gain. Try to stick to people who are in some way connected to your chosen career field – that way you’ll always be kept in the loop about job openings, if you play your cards right.

I have the contacts, now what?
Before making contact with them, prepare yourself. Know what to tell them about yourself and also what you’d like to ask them. Start with who you are. Tell them about your education, achievements, industry experience, special skills – important information that will sell you. Then figure out what you’d like to ask your contacts.

Here are a few questions you can ask your contacts:
1.    Are there or do you know of any openings at your company that would be suited to me?
2.    Have you heard of anyone who might be interested in hiring someone with my skills or background?
3.    Do you know of anyone else who might know of job vacancies that I can contact?

The last thing you want to do though is sound like a robot asking questions from a page. Prepare your script and make sure you sound as natural as possible. Keep it short, but also make sure you interact with your contact. You want to build a lasting, pleasant relationship so that they’ll keep you in mind should anything pop up.

Follow up
After speaking to a contact about job leads, follow up with a thank you email or phone call. People like that you appreciate their help. Don’t become a nag though, there’s a limit to the amount of follow ups you should do. That said; don’t ever give up on job search.

7 Top networking tips
1.    Make professional business cards and always carry them with you
2.    Know how to deliver a winning handshake
3.    Dress for success
4.    Don’t be stiff – laugh, connect, chat
5.    Help others
6.    Listen attentively. Nothing less than your undivided attention
7.    Be respectful, punctual, courteous and positive

If you network properly it could open a lot of doors for you. 

Networking

Networking can be very helpful to your career. 65%  to 80% of all jobs are found through networking. 

The idea is to develop a network of friendly people who share information to help each other. It is best known as a strategy for opening the hidden job market, for getting a good job. Because many jobs (some would say most) are not advertised, it is essential that you develop friendly relationships with people who can tip you off to job openings -- perhaps even introduce you to the person who is doing the hiring. There is some truth in, "It's not what you know, but who you know."

Networking has other benefits. You are creating a community of people who support each other, who provide emotional support and information that will help each other. You will learn of new developments in your field: new tools, processes, leaders, training programs, products and services. You may discover the solution to a problem you face at work. And, you may have the satisfaction of providing the key piece of information that makes a real difference in the life of one of those in your network.

Networking is a planned, and ongoing effort. You set goals, develop strategies for achieving them, take action, evaluate how well your plan is working, and make changes as necessary. It is something that you do throughout your career.

Make a Networking Plan

You will be more successful if you make a networking plan. It will also help you keep track of what you've accomplished.

  1. Set goals for networking. Are you preparing for a future job search in the same career field? Do you want to make a career change? Are you looking for mentors? Want to meet other self-employed people? Deciding who to contact will largely depend on what your goals are.
  2. Identify your networking needs and interests by doing recommended activities in Learn About Yourself, Learn More About the Jobs that Interest Me, Learn about Occupations, and Identify Your Motivated Skills.
  3. Learn about formal and informal networks. Decide how they will fit into your network plan. To build an effective network, you need both formal and informal networks in place.

    Formal networks are the type your actually join, usually with dues and regular meetings. These could include a professional association, a group like the Lion's Club, or an association of school graduates.

    Informal networks may include friends you run into an annual holiday party, friends from a former job, people from your church, mosque, or synagogue, or people you met while white-water rafting. A good network contains both types and has a health mix of business and social conditions.
  4. Become familiar with networking resources. LinkedIn is a popular, essential online choice but will not be enough. College career centers, unemployment offices, and professional career counselors can help. Doing information interviews (see next section) will also help you find the best networking resources for your industry or a career field you want to get into.

How to Make Contacts

  1. Make a list of the kinds of people you want in your network. Include their background, position, personality, leisure interests, and values.
  2. Make a list of the people you already know who you want to include in your network.
  3. Make a list of potential contacts. Use this potential networking contacts list for ideas.
  4. Consider how you will contact people you would like to include in your network: in person, email, phone, LinkedIn or other online networking group, social media, etc.

    Make information interviews a "must" in your networking plan. Meeting face-to-face with someone working in a job that interests you will have a powerful impact on your networking and career research.

Keep your network to a manageable size. Start off small and work up to a size that works for you.

How to Organize Contacts for Networking

Why organize your contacts? So it will be easier for you to keep up with them and meet the goals of your networking plan. Think about how all this information will be most helpful to you. Use whatever device, software or email/contact program you use on a daily basis. Organize them according to groups that make sense to you. 

One simple way is to create groups of contact based on how frequently you use them. So, one group might be current, frequently used contacts. Another group is those people you want access to, but know you won't be speaking with more often than once or twice a year. An optional third group can be for "old-timers." People you haven't contacted in a year or more.

Tips for organizing contacts and keeping up with them:

  1. Look online for articles on organizing contacts for a specific software program, social media, or device;
  2. Create groups in email programs like Outlook and Gmail;
  3. Make sure you keep a contacts list saved separate from your current job. This is particularly true for contacts saved in email programs.
  4. Try using "tags" in LinkedIn to organize your connections;
  5. Use the "notes" section for contacts to record when you last contacted them.
  6. Use your calendar to add reminders to contact or follow up with people within a certain time period.
  7. Give your network and network plan an update at least once a year.

And don't forget the old fashioned way – start out by writing down or typing out a list. Sometimes you just have to get started. Don't procrastinate on reaching out to someone because you haven't figured out how to organize all your contacts.

How to Make Contacts and Take Action

Set a timetable to achieve your goals for making contacts; perhaps you can aim for one cold call, one email, one lunch, and two reconnecting calls a week. Create a file or "networking" notebook to record who you've called and what the outcome or response was. Stick to your schedule and, to stay on track, read over your responses from time to time. You'll be surprised and encouraged by how many contacts you are making.

It helps to set aside a special networking time, such as 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, if your work schedule allows. Quiet Sunday evenings at home can be good times for networking, often the only way to make long-distant contacts. If you put yourself on a mental schedule, you're more likely to really make contacts. When attending meetings, set goals to meet a certain number of new people or leave with a certain number of business cards. Then do it!

Networking is a challenge. The biggest part of it is psychological -- getting and keeping motivated . . . and overcoming any fears you may have. Keep in mind that "It can't hurt to ask" . . . that most people enjoy being asked for help and are flattered to be asked for advice. They also know that in this uncertain job world, they need to network. Consider joining Toastmasters to improve your communication skills. Always push yourself. Approach new people at meetings and start a conversation, even if you're not in the mood. Taking the initiative really pays off. Whether you're a novice or an expert, you get only as much out of networking as you put into it.

Practice Networking Etiquette

The last, but possibly the most important tool for good networking is to make sure you observe networking etiquette. Here are a few essentials to remember: 

  • Always respect your contact's names. Get an OK before you use a person's name as a referral to get to someone else. 
  • Make sure you call people at times that are convenient for them. If you're on the East Coast, don't forget about the three-hour time difference and call someone on the West Coast at 6 a.m. Don't wake someone at midnight just to "touch base." 
  • Follow through on your promises. If someone asks for a copy of an article you've mentioned, jot that request on the back of her or his business card and send the article within the week. If you offer to give someone a phone number, make sure you send it. Even if you haven't made specific commitments to your contacts, communicate with them to stay visible. Send them cards at holiday time, ask them to lunch "for no reason at all," clip articles you know they would appreciate and send them with your card. Think of creative ways to keep in touch. 
  • Thank everyone who helps you or provides you with leads. At any given meeting, you're bound to come away with at least three ideas or tips. Thank the people who offered them with a one-minute phone call or brief handwritten note. It's wise to thank people for leads and ideas even if their suggestions don't pan out; your contacts will appreciate the follow-up.