Networking 101

by Laura Merrill, Manager of Cooperative Education

networking is “the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”

When you’re looking for that perfect job, reading the classifieds isn’t the only job-search strategy you should employ. Networking is vital. Let’s look at the things you should do as you build your network of contacts.

First of all, when you think of contacts, it’s important to think of them as long-term relationships, not short-term interactions. Plan to interact with the people in your network regularly, instead of just talking to them when you’re looking for a job.

Next, think of your job-search as a personal marketing campaign. How would you market a product or service? Use similar techniques to market yourself and the positive attributes you have to offer a potential employer. To hone your marketing campaign, keep the following marketing rules in mind:

1. Define your market or potential customers. Exactly whom do you want/need to reach and impress?
2. Understand what your customers (potential employers) want, need, and expect. Find out who are they hiring, and why.
3. Know your “product or service” and what benefits it will provide for your customers. Focus on what do you do best, and explain how will it help the company succeed.
4. Create the tools that generate maximum exposure to your market. Letters, business cards, resume, work samples, letters of recommendation, case studies of your success stories, etc.

Networking can help with all of these areas. As you talk to more and more people, you’ll be able to refine your market and better understand your customers’ needs. This knowledge will guide you as you make new contacts.

Once you’ve put together your marketing campaign, you can begin networking. Start by thinking about who is currently in your network and what you want and need from these people. Also consider what these people know about you. You want to be prepared with an answer when contacts say, “Tell me something about yourself.”

Commit to memory a 90-second introduction—or “elevator speech”—that tells your contacts who you are, what you want to do in your next job, and what you’ve done in the past that makes you qualified to do just that. What is your employment objective? Build employment objectives through research and by talking with others. In what industries and companies are you interested in working? Who has the information you seek?

Now that you have your marketing and networking plans in place, here are some tips to keep in mind.

The Six Golden Rules of Networking:
1. Meet people and make friends when you don’t need them.
2. Seek advice, not help. Know what kind of advice you’re seeking. Is it resume assistance, advice regarding your marketing strategy?
3. Give before getting. You may think this is impossible since you’re “only” a college student. However, you may know of a student organization that would like to have a guest speaker from your network. Or, perhaps, your contact will want to beta-test a product, service, or strategy, and your campus organization can serve as the focus group. Maybe your current network contacts can be helpful to others.
4. Follow up. Invest time. Show sincere interest in others’ work.
5. Be very involved in your professional community.
6. Lastly, ALWAYS thank the people who provide you information, introductions, referrals or any other resources. A phone call or e-mail is good, but a short, handwritten thank-you note is so much better.

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