Networking is one of the best methods so supplement your internship or job search. If you do it right, you will increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams, and expand your group of friends along the way. “The best way to get a job now is the same as in the ’70s and the ’80s—word of mouth,” explains Adam Cobb, professor of management at The Wharton School. So, here is a how-to guide and some tips to get you started:
What is Your Objective?
Be clear about what you hope to gain from each interaction, whether it be your first LinkedIn request, or face-to-face meeting. Researching the industry you are interested in, and clarifying your career goals and values will be beneficial as you start building your network.
Make a Contact List
These are your family, friends, former employers, professors, TAs, classmates, coaches, etc. If you are finding it difficult to get the list going, begin by reconnecting with old friends on Facebook. Contact the people on your list, and let them know what you're looking for, and how you're hoping they can help you. Remember that you are not asking for an internship or job! You are asking, instead, for their guidance and suggestions. You will get more responses if you are sincere and view each communication as a way to build a relationship, rather than as a transaction.
Finding New Contacts
- Alumni of Thayer and Dartmouth – Check out Thayer School of Engineering group in LinkedIn or the Dartmouth Career Network.
- MentorNet: e-mentoring site that partners undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and untenured faculty in engineering, science and mathematics with experienced professionals in their fields.
- Members of professional associations to which you belong (e.g. IEEE, SAE, AIAA)
- HR contacts and key names in press releases at companies you’re interested in
- Attend on-campus events, conferences and Meetup’s where company representatives will be present.
Create a Networking-Management System
Whether you prefer Excel or Evernote (a software application that helps you remember tasks) staying organized ensures you avoid mistakes like sending a follow-up email twice, or worse, not sending one at all.
Make the Appointment
Setting this up may be nerve-wracking at first, but the worst that can happen is he/she says no or doesn’t respond. While meeting in person is best, a phone conversation is a great start. When initiating contact, make sure you introduce yourself professionally and succinctly (think of this as another opportunity to use your elevator pitch!).
Say Thank You
Acknowledge the time, guidance and suggestions your contact shared with you.
Send periodic, short-and-sweet updates (i.e., did you meet with someone that they recommended? What were the results of their suggestions?); send a snail mail holiday card; ask follow up questions; send articles that they may find interesting with a personal note attached. These quick exchanges show that you are in it to build the relationship (perhaps, one of your contacts will become a mentor), not to use them for their expertise and connections.
- Make the most of every interaction: before you hang up the phone or leave any meeting, ask a) How can I help you? b) Is there anyone else you recommend I contact?
- Do your homework: don’t ask the painfully obvious
- Repeat this mantra: “This is about relationships, not about business”: when it comes to making and maintaining friendships, warmth, curiosity and kindness are key. Plus, if you don’t know what to say, asking good questions and listening intently will not only fill an awkward silence, but will also make your new friend feel really good about the meeting (most of us love talking about ourselves, and everyone knows something you don’t!).
- Do them a favor: if you come across something that would be helpful to a contact, just do it and don’t ask for anything in return.
- Buy organic: Be patient, and allow your friendships to grow organically. One of the biggest networking mistakes is escalating the relationship too quickly, which can come off as desperate.
- Try direct "in-person" visits to an employer. This may be particularly effective for small businesses.
- Treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy: In many organizations, those who answer the phone or clean the floors also serve as "gatekeeper" and have a lot more influence than you may think as to whether or not you'll be allowed inside.
- Pleasant persistence: don’t expect people to call back in two days, but don’t be afraid to reach out again. Keep in mind that some people won’t respond, and that is okay!
- Say Yes. Say thank you. Smile.