Networking has never been so easy.
If you haven’t heard, “networking” is the new buzz word—the catch-all phrase for LinkedIn connections, club social events, and coffee chats. It seems like everyone is networking with one another in some shape or form, and sure enough, networking has its benefits. Used mainly for gaining access to resources or opportunities in job markets, this timeless skill is almost essential to your professional career. How exactly, though, can you make a genuine connection with someone? This guide will walk you through the process of forging a relationship, stress-free.
Step 1: Explore different networking options
In today’s ever-connected world, the channels for connecting with someone are practically endless. In your area, try searching for job fairs or other networking events that are relevant to your field. Established organizations and universities usually hold several of these a year. The benefit of attending in-person events is that you’re able to physically interact with mentors face-to-face, without the unspoken boundaries of a Zoom call. However, if you’re unable to make it in-person, many job fairs are going virtual for the ease and simplicity. After all, there are no venue costs or logistics to deal with online—which might make it more accessible for both companies and job-seekers. For first-time networking opportunities, you might find it less intimidating to attend a virtual fair.
On the topic of the Internet, LinkedIn may be the first platform that comes to mind when someone mentions networking. With over 575 million users and counting, this social media tool for businessmen and women allows you to establish first, second, and third-degree connections with people anywhere in the world. Not only is it handy for following people or companies of interest, but LinkedIn’s private message feature gives you the chance to develop a more personal rapport one-on-one.
Step 2: Reach out in a meaningful way
Now that you’ve identified how and with whom you’d like to network, it’s time to throw the hook out to sea. Start with a polite, but not overly cold greeting, such as: “Hi, my name is Sandy, and I’m a second-year computer science major at Stanford. I’m interested in the research you’ve been doing—do you have time to talk?” Be as specific as possible when referencing their work—they’re more likely to warm up to your request.
It’s important to actively listen to the other person just as much as you talk. Once your conversation gets going, you’ll be more attuned to their passions, interests, and traits, so you can make note of those when finding things in common. You can also relate your strengths and weaknesses to the person you’re talking to in order to gauge how you can help each other. Networking should be a mutually beneficial relationship—no matter how experienced you are, you still likely have something to bring to the table.
If you face a rejection or dismissal, don’t take it to heart! Remember that people are often busy and may not have the time or energy to provide guidance at the moment. This doesn’t mean you should give up; instead, thank them for their consideration and move onto the next opportunity.
Step 3: Follow up with your network
After this initial conversation, keep your new connection warm by writing a formal thank-you and promising to carry out the plans you discussed. For example, if you told them that you’d research a project and send them your resume, do this within a reasonable timeframe for a stellar first impression. Otherwise, they’ll assume that there isn’t much action behind your words.
Maintaining a strong foundation of a building is just as important as building it. Once every few months, make an effort to reach out to your LinkedIn connections and see if you can help out one another in any way. If you see posts about status or promotion updates, use these as an opportunity to congratulate them. Not only is this just a good thing to do as a community member, but it’ll also remind them of how supportive you are.
As the famous saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In many cases, such as the job market today, it certainly rings true. Networking has been proven time and time again to help new and old career searchers to leverage their skills and find new opportunities. Remember to focus on the quality of your connections over the quantity, but don’t be afraid to send that cold email every once in a while. You might be surprised at where it takes you.