You have likely heard this phrase multiple times: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” (In other words, successful people network.) This is great advice for someone with years of experience, but what do you do if you are just entering the working world? Luckily, networking may be easier than you think:
1. Focus your efforts—but not too narrowly
What career field do you hope to enter? Are you searching for a job, an internship, or information only?
As you build your network, think of your intentions as seeds that you are planting—if you plant enough seeds, some will surely take root and grow. One contact may not be able to help you directly, but he or she may know someone who can, or that person may mention you to his or her own network. This is the power of networking. You may only know 20 people, but if each of those people knows 20 contacts in turn, you can now reach 400 individuals.
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2. Start local
Speak with the people you know well—your family, your friends, your professors, and the individuals in your extracurricular activities. “Speak,” here, can mean in-person, but it can also mean over emails, on social media, or by telephone. Your goal is to make your circle aware that you could use a bit of help.
Focus is also important here. Do not just say that you are looking for “a job.” Be specific so that your contacts can form a clear association between you and your objective, and so that they remember your objective when speaking to their networks.
3. Be persistent and positive
However, do not be too persistent. Pestering your contacts with requests for help, or daily reminders of your job search, can quickly encourage people to ignore you. Instead, post occasional reminders to reach those individuals who were not logged in last time, or who forgot. Once per week should be frequent enough.
You should also avoid focusing on what you do not have. Post about what you have learned, the people you have met, and the connections you have made. Send short messages to those contacts who have helped you, and include a piece of information that they might like. Notes like, “I saw this article, and I thought you might be interested,” can leave people with a positive impression of you.
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4. Ask for informational interviews
Rather than solely asking about available positions, identify those individuals who are familiar with your field. Next, ask them about their specialties. What are their keys to success? What do they love about the field, and what do they wish they had known about it? Do not share your resume unless they ask you for it. Do follow up with a thank you note, as well as a request for suggestions about who you should speak to next. Ask to add them to your social networks. Hopefully, they will now have a positive association with you when they see your future posts about open job opportunities.
5. Join discussions
Browse those websites that are relevant to your professional interests (or more generally centered around conversation), and then join discussions on topics that are related to your field. Ensure that you have something substantive to say, or that your questions are not obvious. If you can, send personal messages to active or experienced posters to request more information or clarification on points in their posts.
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Just like the informational interview, do not ask directly for a job. Do, however, include your LinkedIn profile, personal website, or blog in your signature. Should you say something that interests them, they will be able to reach you, or to pass your contact details on to their networks.
Brian Witte is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University