Networking is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. It helps you gain inside information, receive job search advice in your field of interest and obtain contacts for informational interviews or work. Become an expert relationship builder and networker through face-to-face interactions and social media networking.
Here are 7 steps to successful networking:
- Make a List
- Determine Your Purpose
- Review, Assess & Reflect
- Craft Your Elevator Speech
- Practice Networking
- Track Contacts & Follow Up
- Have an Attitude of Gratitude
1. Make a List
Make a list of those you know and begin contacting them to see if they might introduce you to someone who can lead you to a job in your area of interest. Think of these people as connectors. Here are ideas to get started:
- Peers, family, friends, neighbors, church
- Degree program professors/faculty
- Career Development Center
- FPU alumni network
- Job/career fairs, networking events
- Social media contacts (LinkedIn/Facebook/Instagram)
- Professional associations, organizations, clubs
- Current/former colleagues/volunteers you've worked with
- Those you've learned of through research
- Anyone you'd like advice from
2. Determine Your Purpose
Decide what your goal is in contacting your network and what you hope to gain.
Early stage of career planning: Your purpose is to gather information about careers of interest, including job duties, educational preparation, future growth in the field and recommended work experience.
Later stage of career planning: You’re currently conducting a job search. Your purpose is to obtain advice on your job search and to get job leads. This includes information about employers in your field, descriptions of various work environments, hiring strategies, preferred qualifications and referrals to employers who have openings.
- Informational Interview Guide | plan a professional conversation with a network connection.
- The Importance of Networking | refine your networking purpose & discover tips.
3. Review, Assess & Reflect
Review who you are, what you have to offer and what you’re looking to do. Assess your skills, interests and values. What do you do well? What do you enjoy professionally and personally? Reflect on your greatest accomplishments. What is important to you?
- Self-Discovery | explore your preferences & motivations.
4. Craft Your Elevator Speech
An elevator pitch is a concise introduction of yourself covering what you do well and your goals delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
Draft your pitch. Writing it down helps you put ideas into simple sentences. Leave your audience wanting to know more about you. Here’s a sample to help you get started.
If you have time to research your audience ahead of time, customize it to your audience. What questions do you want to ask them? How are you the solution to their problem?
Practice your pitch. An elevator pitch is only as good as your delivery, so make it come to life. Practice out loud, memorizing key points and keep it between 30-60 seconds. Check out this Sample Elevator Pitch.
5. Practice Networking
Did you know that you are 5 times more likely to be hired if you have been referred by an employee than if you apply to a job without knowing anyone in the organization? The goal of networking is not to find a job, but to connect with people who can lead you to jobs.
Attend networking events. Seek out FPU’s Alumni Network or other school alumni groups, get involved in events by professional associations and organizations, and participate in career fairs. Look for alumni groups for past employers on LinkedIn.
Focus on targeted companies and network with a purpose. Your goal is to meet people that you can help and people who can help you. You may not know who they are yet, so mix with several people to improve your chances.
Smile and be friendly. People might see you as threatening if you are too intense and plunge into a heavy topic. Lighten up and give your best smile.
Deliver with confidence because you only get one chance to make a good first impression. People want to know they are talking to a reliable person they can trust. Have great body language, eye contact and excitement about what you are saying.
Make others feel important by remembering facts, complimenting their experience and asking questions. Build in a call to action such as, “If you’re interested in learning more, here’s my email.” Or, “Do you know someone who I could connect with?” Or, “Is it okay if I send you my resume?”
Listen to what others say and determine their needs. Strike up friendly conversation, like “What do you do for a living?” “How did you get into your field?” “What was your college major?” Gradually, the conversation will turn to you to introduce your focus. Then you can request assistance/resources (events to attend, people to meet, etc.).
Exchange business cards or contact information so details aren’t forgotten. Always have plenty of business cards on hand. Out of work? Have cards printed or make your own (list your interest industry instead of a job title).
Circulate. Don’t stay comfortable with the first group you meet. After a while make a polite excuse: “It was nice to meet you.” Move around the room, spending about 10 minutes with each person. Networking means circulating, and most people are aware of this. Check out Networking Dos & Don'ts.
Put your networking into practice at the dining table. Did you know that 80% of second interviews involve a meal? Learn how to feel comfortable and professional while networking during dining: Professionalism + Etiquette.
Put your network into practice in your job search by applying and interviewing for jobs you are genuinely interested in. Be prepared and on time, calling 24 hours before canceling and reschedule if possible. Don’t accept a job and continue job searching.
- Networking Guide | step-by-step face-to-face networking guide.
- Career Fair Networking | discover how to navigate a job fair seamlessly.
- Handshake Events | find career-focused virtual & in-person networking events.
6. Track Contacts & Follow Up
After networking engagements where you’ve exchanged business cards, prioritize your follow-up with leads and stay in touch by connecting on LinkedIn.
7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Always be grateful for those who are willing to help and thank them for their time and assistance. This goes a long way towards future help. Every meeting you get and the opportunities that result will be because of your networking efforts and establishing relationships. Write a thank you note, keep in contact, and pay it forward. These connections might even become your references and recommenders!