Networking is the process of interacting with family, friends, alumni and other professionals to gain information about a career field or to develop potential contacts for an internship or job search.
If you are mostly interested in learning more about a career, be sure to let contacts know that you are seeking “information” rather than “consideration.” Networking contacts will be able to provide you with:
- An understanding of a particular field
- Knowledge of a graduate school curriculum
- Overall advice on the types of experiences necessary for success in a given field
Networking can also give you an advantage in any job or internship search by allowing you to learn the appropriate contacts for specific companies. Contacts can provide you with ‘inside information’ to assist in your candidacy at their company or others.
Draft a brief email introducing yourself to your contact and have it critiqued by a career advisor. Be prepared to follow up by phone or email, and be sure to attach a resume targeted to the organization.
Limit the email to a couple of short paragraphs. You can base your email on one of these sample introductory emails, but we strongly suggest that you don’t copy them verbatim. Be sure to include:
- How you’d like to meet – in person, over the phone, via Skype, etc.
- How long you’d like to meet – 15 to 30 minute phone call or 30 to 60 minutes in person
- When and how you’re planning on following up with them
Be sure to have someone else proofread your email before you send it, and follow up with your contact when and how you told them you would.
During the Meeting
Dress professionally and be polite during the meeting. Ask thoughtful, appropriate questions. You should expect to have about 5-10 questions ready to ask for a half hour conversation. Or, you should have 3-5 concise email questions ready to share.
Whether on the phone or in person, really listen to what the person tells you. Although you are actually in charge of the interview, you should be prepared to talk half of the time and listen the other half. Be prepared for the person to ask you about your interests and experiences.
While it is important to maintain eye contact during in-person meetings, taking notes demonstrates interest in what the person is saying. Make sure you write the person’s name, his/her email, and the date on your notes so that you can refer back to them, and appropriately follow-up.
Keep phone and in-person conversations short and try not to go over an agreed upon end time. Remember you can always follow up with them later.
At the end of phone or in-person conversations, and via email correspondence, always clarify next steps you should take and those that will be taken by your networking contact person.
Remember to say “thank you”!
After the Meeting
Send a thank you note immediately. Emails are acceptable and allow you to follow up quickly, but handwritten notes may be appropriate if you would like to add a more personal touch. Personalize your thank you by referencing something from your conversation that was particularly helpful. If the person referred you to another friend or colleague, state your plan for contacting that person.
Quickly and appropriately contact people referred to you by the person you spoke with. Make sure to immediately mention the mutual contact as well as the reason why the person you originally spoke with thought this new person might be helpful. Follow the same rules regarding timing, etiquette, and thank you notes.
Reflect on the conversation and ask yourself:
- What did I learn from this interview (both positive and negative impressions)?
- How does what I learned fit with my own interests, abilities, goals, values, etc.?
- What more would be helpful to know?
- What are critical next steps?
Keep your contacts informed of all subsequent actions and, when appropriate, make additional requests for advice and support. Always share successes and express your gratitude anew.
Finally, stop by the Career Center and let us know how it went! We’ll help you with next steps and answer any remaining questions.