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Networking

What is networking?

Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. It isn't a one-time contact. Instead, networking is a long-term relationship in which you can develop ideas, ask questions and share experiences. The goal of networking is to exchange ideas, not seek a job. It’s asking someone you know for specific information to help you solve a problem. And often, if that person doesn’t know the answer, they refer you to someone they know who might be able to help. Now your network has expanded.

In your job search, networking is

  • talking to people who know you, are familiar with what you want to do, and can provide information to help you progress toward your goal.
  • connecting with people who are employed in your field of interest and can share inside information on what the job field is really like.
  • contacting individuals within organizations for which you believe you’d like to work and learning about the culture and hiring process.
  • getting the inside track on a job that hasn’t yet been advertised.

Steps to Effective Networking

Develop a personal marketing plan

  • You need to be able to articulate to your network what skills you have and how and where you want to use them. Identify your skills, interests and goals.

  • Online social networking should be a piece of your overall marketing strategy.
  • Make sure your resume is current and targeted to your goals. Give people in your network a copy so they have a ready reference to your background and abilities when they talk to their contacts.

Do your research

Investigate the positions, industries and organizations that interest you.

Try to find out as much as you can for several reasons:

  • The information gained may help you narrow down your list and focus your efforts.
  • By being knowledgeable, you prove to people you meet that this is important to you.
  • Finally, you bring value to your network by sharing information about current industry trends and issues that you have uncovered.

Identifying people to network with

The first step with networking is to identify people in your network. Your network is already quite large and you might not even realize it. It is not just about whom you know, but who does your network know.

Start by cultivating your personal network. Make a list of who you know.

  • Your parents and your friends’ parents
  • Family: grandparents, aunts/uncles, brothers/sisters, cousins
  • Friends of your parents
  • Neighbors
  • Faculty (current and former)
  • Miami alumni
  • Clergy
  • Your doctor and dentist
  • Former employers and co-workers
  • Members of organizations you belong to: social and professional
  • Anyone you know, who when contacted, recognizes you
  • Begin by writing these names down. If you get stuck, ask those in your inner circle to help jog your memory.

Make a list of people you’d like to meet

Once you’ve listed those you already know, start working on a list of those you’d like to know. These are the people in a particular position or employed by a certain organization that interests you. Having this list helps you focus when contacting your network. It’s very possible that someone in your network has just the contact you need.

Make contact with those on your list and those to whom you’ve been referred

If you’ve received referrals, make sure you contact these people — someone who knows you and what you’re looking for thought they would be a good connection for you. Solicit additional names from these new contacts in order to continue to expand your network.

There are a number of ways to make contact, depending on how well you know the person. If this is someone you speak with regularly, a phone call is all that’s needed. However, an introduction letter helps smooth the way before phoning someone you don’t know well, or were referred to. 

Options for making contact online include

  • email.
  • checking to see if the prospective contact has a blog which allows comments.
  • exploring Twitter or Facebook for the prospective contact.

Conduct Informational Interviews

When you have identified potential networking contacts, the next step is to speak with them. Informational interviews are a great way to structure your time with someone to ensure you have the opportunity to ask the questions most important to you. These are short appointments for gathering information from someone with experience. An informational interview is a good low-pressure way to begin a conversation with a professional. Informational interviewing can provide you with first-hand information about a company, insight into current trends in a particular field, details on hiring, insight on skills/qualities they are seeking, experience speaking with employers and opportunities to build your network.  Informational interviews should not be confused with job interviews.

See our Sample Informational Interview Questions

Setting up an informational interview

Start exploring your network for contacts, having a personal connection with someone will increase the likelihood of obtaining an informational interview. You can call or email to initiate a contact.

Remember these tips

  • Be confident and energetic.
  • Be punctual, as this shows that you are responsible and respect others' time.
  • Prepare for every interview by researching the company and having a prepared list of questions to ask. Networking professionals agree that over-preparing is essential. Consider this: for every 10 minutes you have a conversation with an individual, you spend 90 minutes preparing.
  • Be sure to state that you are interested in researching or seeking advice when you initiate a contact. Do not ask for a job in your first contact.
  • Ask for a 20-30 minute meeting at their convenience, at their worksite, and assure them you know they are busy and you will be brief.
  • Don't be afraid to let people know that you are job searching. If no one knows you are looking for a job, they can't refer you.
  • Bring items like business cards, a leather portfolio with resumes, a pen, breath mints and your planner / calendar. These simple items can help you better connect with colleagues, business leads or potential employers.
  • Dress in business attire and arrive early for the interview.
  • When you meet your interview contact, shake hands and exchange greetings. Take notes during the interview. At the end of the interview, shake hands again, and express your appreciation for the interview.
  • Follow up every interview with a thank you note, by email or handwritten.

Follow-up

Once you’ve met with your contacts, be sure to follow up as agreed. Chances are you were given new ideas and information which require more research. Networking is an ongoing process.

  • Don’t neglect to follow up on leads you were given.
  • Be certain to update your network on the progress you’ve made as a result of the information they’ve provided.
  • Don’t forget to say “thank you”. Sending a thank-you note to everyone you speak with goes a long way in showing appreciation and maintaining your network.

Keep a contact log

Make sure to keep track of who you talk with, when you spoke, what you discussed, and what the next steps will be. As your network grows, this tool will be invaluable.

Online Social Networking

Social Media is revolutionizing the job search process while also opening new doors for networking that never existed before.

According to the NACE 2011 Student Survey, nearly 70% of students with both a LinkedIn and Twitter account use them in the job search. In the same survey, nearly 71 percent of Class of 2011 seniors said they expect employers to view candidates' social networking profiles. Make sure your online presence will allow you to set yourself up for opportunities to come to you.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the leading professional network on the Web. Your LinkedIn profile is an important supplement to your resume. Having a LinkedIn account and a complete LinkedIn profile and headshot allows you to connect with classmates, alumni, faculty/staff, and industry professionals for networking purposes, and to find new opportunities for internships and full-time positions.

Be social. Add people you know to your network. Contribute to discussions and share information, as both are a great way to connect with professionals you might want to work for and show them you are a rising star.

LinkedIn even has a section specifically for college graduates. And, you can find new opportunities for internships and full-time positions. Check out their videos to become a master of social networking through LinkedIn.

How to Begin Using LinkedIn

Visit these LinkedIn Checklists to begin: LinkedIn Profile Checklist (PDF) or LinkedIn Job Search Checklist (PDF) 

  • Select an appropriate photo

  • Connect, connect, connect!

  • Customize all your connection requests to employers and alumni.

  • Connect to Miami Alumni through the Miami University Alumni Association LinkedIn group

  • Connect to people you have worked with and other industry professionals for insight, advice, and opportunities

  • Join groups affiliated with your major, industry interest, and campus/community involvement

Now that you’re connected

  • Research potential employers and the people that work there

  • Utilize your connections by conducting informational interviews

  • Realize the potential of your major, search for people with your major and discover their career paths

  • Stay in the know with current trends related to your interests

  • Engage in discussions through the groups in which you are a member

  • Discover internships and job opportunities worldwide

Twitter

Twitter can be a tremendous tool for networking and researching career fields. Follow people and organizations you are interested in to learn the latest information and get in on the conversation. Participate in live chats to connect with professionals and attract potential employers. Before you get started, make sure you understand how to use Twitter in a professional way.

Here are a few resources to help:

Facebook

An increasing number of recruiters today view candidates' Facebook pages for screening purposes. If you do not want a potential employer to see your uncensored personal life, change your privacy settings or clean up your profile. Your online presence is becoming more important and you do not want your Facebook page to prevent you from getting a job.

Networking with Faculty

Faculty members are a tremendous resource to students at Miami University. However, you need to take the initiative inviting them to share their wisdom and experiences with you. Networking with faculty is critically important for students wishing to pursue academic careers.

Make the most out of networking with faculty

Take note of the faculty members who

  • have interests related to your own (in and out of your department).

  • have work you admire or respect.

  • can provide you with insight into your area of specialization.

  • have knowledge to provide information on career options.

Once you identify faculty members with similar interests, try to begin a relationship with them. These are great opportunities for conversation and mentoring.

Start by

  • going to office hours regularly.

  • attending departmental socials.

  • letting your faculty member/s know about your research and teaching preferences so that you may be advised of research, writing or teaching opportunities.

  • volunteering or applying to work on a research project with faculty.

  • writing an article for publication and asking select faculty to review it and provide feedback.

  • volunteering to sit on a departmental or university committee of students and faculty in your area of interest.

  • attending national meetings/conferences at which departmental faculty will be present.

Attend Network Functions

Continue to build your network by attending professional organization meetings and conferences, career fairs, Chamber of Commerce functions, and other events that put you in contact with those who may be able to provide information.