'Networking' Is Not A Dirty Word

Networking can occur anywhere — at a Dad’s Weekend, on an airplane while traveling home for a weekend, or at a university lecture your student decided to attend for extra credit.

When people hear the word, ‘networking’, they may assume it simply means the amount of business cards you give out/take away or the number of connections you have on LinkedIn. While having a high quantity of people in your student’s network can be helpful, it is the quality that truly matters. Research has shown employers hire people they know. If your student is not known by the employer, then how can they get hired? They can be intentional in their preparation to network!

First, your son or daughter needs to know themselves before they can really network effectively — whether it is through email, phone, or face-to-face. Without knowledge of themselves, their passions, and their goals, any attempt at networking can be a giant flop. Encourage your student to take a career assessment to learn more about themselves so they are able to effectively communicate with others.

Second, push your student to utilize your network and their growing network. They should not feel awkward if they want to contact one of your friends, distant family members, or colleagues for advice about internships, informational interviews, or career advice. By connecting your student with people you know who could be advantageous to their future career, you are helping them learn how to network for themselves. One suggestion I have is to give your student the opportunity to develop their network on their own. Do not go to informational interviews with them. Do not sit next to them when they are contacting a perspective employer on the phone.

You can support your student before their networking opportunity by discussing challenges of the workforce based on your experiences, any knowledge you might have about the industry, and having them practice potential questions beforehand. Organization and planning is something everyone can improve upon, so assisting your student formulate a plan before a networking event can be key as well.

Third, continue to teach your son or daughter good manners, as you have likely been doing for the past 20-something years. Encourage them to say ‘Thank You’ when a mentor, coach, or adviser gives them a resource, takes time for them in their busy schedule, or buys them a cup of coffee. Manners go a long way in today’s society and you want to make sure others know you raised your child right!

Additionally, encourage your son or daughter to send thank you notes. Handwritten notes may be dying art or inconvenience in some people’s minds, but have you ever felt worse for helping someone after receiving a thank you note indicating their gratitude? During an upcoming holiday, you could buy your student formal thank you cards, or a nice accessory, such as a watch, a scarf, or a piece of jewelry, that will make them feel important, polished, and confident when they find themselves in a networking situation, even if it is unexpected.

Finally, in the age of the Y Generation, human contact that is conducted face-to-face is still important. Online networking must be followed up with face-to-face contact to ensure genuine, effective, and productive relationship building so networking relationships continue to flourish long after the connection is established.