Networking is the single most effective method of gathering career-related information, developing contacts within an industry, and uncovering the hidden job market. The ability to identify and connect with those working in your field of interest is an essential skill in the career search process. To successfully grow your professional network through conversations with others, you must prepare and develop a plan. Create a plan using the Personal Networking Strategy Workbook.
The Hidden Job Market
Most employers prefer informal and personal methods of identifying employees, and believe personal contacts result in more in-depth and accurate information. Networking does not eliminate the need to use other job search methods; it should be part of your overall job search strategy.
The way to develop your network is by talking to people. Networking allows you to build knowledge about career paths and industries, and gather information about potential opportunities. The discussion can be formal, such as talking to a recruiter at a career fair, speaking with an employer at an Information Session, or conducting an informational interview with an alumnus/a. Networking can also happen in more casual settings, such as chatting with your roommate's parents during family weekend, talking to your coach about your desired summer plans, or striking up a conversation with a peer in one of your classes.
Step One: Create a framework for conducting outreach to people in your field of interest using the Personal Networking Strategy Workbook.
Step Two: Craft an effective and memorable introduction using the Personal Pitch Workbook.
How To Network
Networking is not about asking for an internship or job. It's about developing relationships with people who can provide insights and information that will help you in your job search. Determine the types of referrals you need—are you seeking information about career options or specific employers and positions? Start by compiling a list of initial contacts and the questions you would like to ask them, such as:
- Can you tell me about your experience working for [insert company name]?
- How did you get into this field/company?
- How does one learn about job opportunities in this field? In this organization?
- What skills and experience do you look for when you hire?
- Can you suggest anyone else in the field to whom I could reach out?
- May I use your name when I call?
What to Say
How you communicate with employers, alumni, and other contacts in your field of interest will leave an impression. Make it a good one! Review the section on Professional Correspondence for tips on how to communicate effectively. Review the sample emails for requesting an informational interview.
Crafting Your Introduction
Before reaching out, you need to know what you want to say about yourself. What do you want people to know about you? Or think about you? How do you want them to remember you? How will you leave an impression? What interests you about a particular field, industry, company, etc.? To craft an effective and memorable introduction, use the Pitch Workbook. Also, check out the Engineering Small Group Sessions in Handshake to register for an interactive session on developing your personal pitch. These sessions are offered periodically throughout the semester.
Wrapping Up the Conversation
You just had a great conversation with an employer at the career fair, or with an alum you randomly encountered at the airport. Now what? How do you end the conversation and ensure that this individual is going to remember you moving forward. Always wrap up the conversation by thanking your listener for his/her time. If your conversation was about an opportunity, reiterate your interest in the position, company, industry, etc., and why you would be a good fit. If you have your resume on hand, offer to leave it with them as a reference. In some situations, like your random encounter at the airport, you may not have a resume with you. In this case, it would be appropriate to offer your business card. There are many online resources for students to create business cards. Cornell Print Services, Vistaprint, and MOO are a few available options. You can also ask the person with whom you are in conversation for their business card, or the best way for you to follow-up.