In this day and age the only way to success is networking. Time and time again we have been told this by professors, professionals and even our parents. It is a message disseminated in so many different mediums that we almost become desensitized to the word. Networking.
But are you networking? Check out these definitions of networking and what it should mean to You:
Networking (n.): a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest
If you’re not sharing with people you’re not engaging in the act of networking. Be personable. Be friends. Share information about what you are doing, what you want to be doing and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You want to share your knowledge and abilities with people, otherwise they won’t know how to utilize your skills or services. They’re there to help you and be helped by you–so tell them HOW.
- Have a business card available. This is such a powerful tool for sharing information with someone. Be sure to have professional business cards with your name, phone number, email address, twitter and website or blog. You can also put your university and the date you graduate. Make sure that your card has a blank, matte back so that people can make notes if they want to. Consider doing this yourself, as well.
- Show interest. The best way to begin networking is asking someone about themselves: what they do, what they’re interested in. People like to talk about themselves and like to be listened it. Showing that you are interested in what they have to say will encourage them to keep talking and could open up the possibility of further contact.
Networking (v.): to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position
- Establish a relationship. While it’s great to leave a networking event with a bunch of business cards, these people don’t become contacts until you establish a relationship with them. Follow up with all those business cards. Use the notes you wrote on the back of each one to reach out and connect in a personalized manner: “Hey, Tom. How was your vacation to Maui?” (You get the idea).
- Create a call to action. One of the most important parts of utilizing a relationship is creating a reason for them to help you. Ask your new contact questions about your industry. Set up an informational interview to ask questions about what They do. Show them in what way they can help you out. It’s a great idea to send an email or thank you card after any such meeting.
- BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN PEDDLING YOUR RESUME!: We are in a unique position as students to ask people for help and actually receive it. The LAST thing your contacts want is for your to spring your resume on them and ask for a job. The idea to networking is to establish relationships that could lead to professional advancement. That doesn’t entail begging for a job.
- Reconnect. It’s likely that after your ‘call to action’ is completed that you will not be in constant contact with your connection. Make sure to send them an email, tweet or LinkedIn message once in a while to check in and see how they’re doing and update them on your life. It’s a great way to continue your relationship and keep your name in their minds.