Networking is when like-minded individuals recognize, create, or act upon opportunities and build relationships. Networking can take place both online and in person.
For many young professionals, networking may feel uncomfortable, but actually everyone has done some type of networking already. For example, have you ever asked a friend or co-worker where they take their car to get fixed, get their hair done, or for a restaurant recommendation for a similar vacation spot? These are everyday aspects of networking which are still related to networking for jobs and career paths.
One key point to remember is that networking is about being curious. Be curious about someone else’s job, career path, family, future interests, past successes and failures. Don’t rely only on the other person to ask questions or carry the conversation. Begin to build networking relationships by expressing your interest and being curious!
Why is Networking Important?
Have you heard the phrase: "It's not what you know, it's who you know"?
You probably have, but also consider a newer version of this phrase: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you”.
Both of these phrases are true and have their place in the realm of networking. You need to know people in your field and you also need to make sure that people are able to recognize what you are doing as a young professional in the field. Networking helps you build relationships with people who can help you. This could mean helping you get a job, giving advice for that job, or pointing you in the right direction when it comes to a certain task for that job. Networking also allows you to help and support others in their career journeys. Maybe a recent job posting isn’t a good fit for you, but it sounds like a great fit for an individual you’ve been connecting with through LinkedIn—send it along to them.
And don’t forget that everybody in your network also has a network of their own. So as you grow a network in which you are both seeking and giving, so will your range of opportunities.
What is an Elevator Pitch?
An elevator pitch is a verbal, personal statement that you might give to an influential figure if you met them in an elevator. For that reason the pitch needs to be concise and effective – typically no longer than 30-45 seconds. Here are some pointers on constructing your speech:
- Who are you?: What would you want someone to remember most about you?
- What is your value?: What would you bring to a company? What would be the impact if you joined a company?
- What things are different about you?: What are some things that set you apart or make you different from the crowd?
- What are your immediate goals?: It should be apparent to the listener as you talk what you are looking for or where you would like to be in the very near future. Use concrete terms and times.
- Put it all Together: Eliminate any phrases that are unnecessary and keep the speech to 30-45 seconds.
- Practice: The way you express yourself and your enthusiasm is as important as what you say. Allow others to hear your pitch.
Forbes magazine shared these 9 tips for developing and using an elevator pitch:
- Clarify your job market
- Put in on paper
- Format it
- Tailor the pitch to them, not you.
- Eliminate industry jargon
- Read your pitch out loud
- Prepare a few variations
- Be confident
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Your network consists of everyone that you know and everyone that they know. Of course if you never delve into the second layer or ask for referrals to the outer layer of your network, you will never reach the dozens, or perhaps hundreds of people with hiring influence in that outer layer. Look for networking contacts through:
- Past professors
- Fraternity brothers/sisters
- Your career office
- Community organizations
- Professional associations
- Define the purpose of your LinkedIn account; if it is for job searching, feature your top characteristics.
- Reflect the characteristics that employers in your major area of study might seek.
- Create a profile tagline that sounds deliberate, hopeful and professional but never desperate.
- Build a summary in first or third person that sounds confident but not cocky, well-rounded but not overly idealistic or spacey.
- Select a profile photo of you and only you in your most professional or workplace-appropriate attire.
- List all relevant work and volunteer experiences with honesty.
- Carefully proofread all aspects of your profile for spelling, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation.
- Customize your LinkedIn URL and add this URL to your email signature.
- Limit the list of your skills to your top five or six so that you do not end up with a long list of skills with no endorsements.
- Ensure that your profile is set up to accept jobs, business opportunities and new networking requests.
- Craft at least two or three monthly updates, containing professional development information about yourself.
- Join relevant groups for your field and areas of interest.
- Make an effort to join in on group discussions and questions asked by others. Also feel free to reply privately to those in a discussion to build
- Join the Slippery Rock University Alumni Networking group and begin building contacts through people with whom you have a common connection.
- Use the search feature within the groups you have joined to help find possible connections and then reach out to those connections.
- When sending a request, follow the rules of LinkedIn and only connect with someone with whom you have an official connection.
- Always, always, always customize your invitation to connect; never use the generic connection message.
- Avoid the notion that “the more contacts the better” (LION – Linked In Open Networker) and stick with a more target networking approach.
- As people accept you into their network keep the conversation going by first thanking them for accepting you.
- Seek recommendations from those with whom you have worked or studied.
- If you want recommendations, first consider writing a well-crafted recommendation for someone else first; they might reciprocate.
- LinkedIn makes recommendations for people with whom you might want to connect; scan these recommendations and add any valuable contacts through this method.
- Approach others in your network and ask them to introduce you to specific individuals in their network so that you can connect with people who have hiring influence.
- Use the advanced people search feature to better target the types of people with whom you might want to build connections.
- Also consider using LinkedIn’s Alumni site to connect you with alumni for your educational institutions. The web address is www.linkedin.com/alumni.
- Use the search feature to not only look up individuals but also companies. Many companies have pages which will show you how many connections you have to employees in that company.
- Take some time to read the profiles of those who are in positions you would like to be in some day. This will help you to see the responsibilities, career paths, skills, and education of those who are doing work that interest you. Knowing what is required for a position and applying those skills and areas of knowledge to your resume and cover letter can help you get noticed.
How do I Network in Person?
- Accept a business card in the same way that another presents theirs to you. If they present with two hands, receive with two hands.
- Know your elevator pitch and maybe have more than one prepared so you are not repetitive in a circle of others who have heard the pitch.
- Generally place your nametag on the right side so it is visible as you shake hands.
- Gentlemen, allow ladies to extend a handshake first to assure they are comfortable with the exchange.
- Handshakes should be firm but not crushing. The web of the thumbs should meet.
- If you need to leave a conversation you can introduce the individual to someone else.
- Use cues to remember peoples’ names including using their name as you talk.
- Use your body position to include others in conversation if you see they are standing alone.
- Try to use your non-verbals to include everyone in a networking circle, not just the person you are addressing.
- Listen 70% of the time and talk only 30% of the time.
- Always start small. Asking for a card is one thing, asking for a lunch is something else. Asking for a job is not usually appropriate on the first meeting.
- Give the speaker 100% attention and think of questions that might relate to what they are saying.
- Never look around the room or past the speaker as they are speaking.
Where do I start Networking?
- Mentoring Programs
- Job Fairs
- Business Meetings
- Young Professional Groups
LinkedIn Student Page (students.linkedin.com)