Networking is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Networking helps you gain inside information, receive job search advice in your field of interest, receive tips on your job hunting tools and obtain names of contacts for informational interviews/possible employment. You can become an expert networker and connector. Below are seven steps to successful networking.
- Make a List
- Determine Your Purpose
- Review Assess & Reflect
- Craft Your Elevator Speech
- Put Your Networking into Practice
- Track Your Contacts & Follow Up
- Have an Attitude of Gratitude
1. Make a List
Brainstorm all areas—not just your professional life:
- Family, friends neighbors, classmates and professors
- Alumni Network—contact FPU's Career Development and Experimental Learning Center or Alumni Network for contacts or use LinkedIn to find FPU alumni.
- Fellow volunteers you’ve worked with
- Social media contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google—97 percent of all employers vet their candidates through LinkedIn and 80 percent will do a Google search of your name. Make sure you are on LinkedIn and have a positive online presence.
- Co-workers from current and previous jobs
- People you’ve learned of in your research
- Members of professional associations and organizations—see list below to national organizations. Check if they have any local chapters.
- Anyone you would like to get advice from
Think of these people as the connectors. Who might they know in your area of interest that they can introduce you to? Anyone you know or want to know may hold the key to your next job.
- American Advertising Federation – a professional organization providing insights into the world of advertising.
- American Film Institute – A nonprofit organization that preserves motion picture heritage, honors artists and their work and educates the next generation of storytellers.
- American Society of Newspaper Editors – an organization of editors, journalistic producers and directors; opinion journalists; university journalism deans and faculty; and media-related foundation/training organization leaders and deans.
- Association of Women in Communications – a professional organization that champions the advancement of women across all communications disciplines.
- International Association of Business Communicators – provides resources, connections and learning opportunities needed to move business communication careers forward.
- National Association of Broadcasters – a professional broadcasting association.
- National Communication Association – a professional communication association.
- Public Relations Student Society of America – a professional organization that enhances students’ education and broaden their professional network.
- American Institute of Biological Sciences – a nonprofit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education society’s welfare.
- Association of American Medical Colleges – a nonprofit professional medical association committed to strengthening the world's most advanced medical care by supporting the entire spectrum of education, research and patient care activities conducted by member institutions.
2. Determine Your Purpose
Decide what your purpose or goal is in contacting your network and what you hope to gain by meeting with them.
Early stage of career planning: Your purpose is to gather information about jobs and careers of interest to you. This includes information about job duties, educational preparation, future growth in the field and recommended work experience. Visit the Career Development and Experimental Learning Center's Library for more information on informational interviewing.
Later stage of career planning: You are currently conducting a job search for either full-time or part-time employment. Your purpose is to obtain advice on how to conduct 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.
3. Review Assess & Reflect
Review who you are, what you have to offer and what are you looking to do. Assess your skills, interests and values. What do you do well? What are your strengths/gifts? Reflect on your greatest accomplishments. What interests you professionally and personally? What is important to you?
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. Here’s how:
Draft your pitch. Writing it down helps you put ideas into simple sentences. You should have no more than five-six sentences and it should be quick. Leave your audience curious and wanting to know more about who you are. Here’s a sample to help get you started.
If you have time to research your audience ahead of the event or meeting, try to customize your elevator pitch for your audience—like how you’d tailor your resume for specific jobs. 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 your pitch come to life. The best way to ensure a successful delivery is to practice out loud saying all the words. Memorize important points you want to make and keep it between 30-60 seconds. Click here for a Sample Elevator Pitch (0:59).
5. Put Your Network into Practice
Attend networking events. Seek out FPU’s Alumni Network. Become a member and get involved in events by professional associations and organizations as well as career fairs.
Deliver it with confidence. You only get one chance to make a good impression. People want to know they are talking to a good, honest, reliable person they can trust and like. Have great body language, confidence and excitement about what you are saying.
Confidence is a must for delivering your pitch like a pro. Make eye contact with your audience and be sure your body language is appropriate—aka uncross your arms. Own it with a smile. Because you’re introducing yourself, you want to be approachable.
Make the other person feel important by remembering the facts, complimenting their experience and asking questions. You can even build in a call to action such as, “If you’re interested in learning more, here’s my email address.” Or, “Do you know someone who you think I could connect with?” Or, “Is it okay if I send you my resume?”
The goal of networking is not to find a job, but to connect with people who can lead you to jobs. Here are some additional tips:
Focus on targeted companies. 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 you may have to mix with several people to improve your chances. But you should have an overall goal. It helps other people to help you if they know what you are looking for. Don’t ask for information about job openings immediately, as this has a negative impact.
Smile and be friendly. Don’t be too serious. People might see you as threatening if you are too intense and plunge straight into a heavy topic. Lighten up a little and give people your best smile.
Listen to what they have to say and determine their needs. Start with a friendly, safe question to strike up a conversation, like “What do you do for a living?” “How did you get into your current field?” “What was your major in college?” Gradually, the conversation will turn to you, and you can give a little background and introduce your focus. Remember that you are there to help others and you have useful information and contacts for some of the people you meet. Then you can request for assistance with resources you should access—things you should do, events to attend, people you need to meet and activities you need to do.
Exchange business cards/contact information. Always have plenty of business or personal contact cards. If you are out of work and looking for opportunities, have some cards printed with your name, email and phone number. You can leave the title blank or put the name of industry or field you are interested in. It is important to exchange cards/contact information with people, so the contact details are not forgotten. You can even take pictures of business cards for convenience.
Circulate. Don’t stay the whole time making comfortable small talk with the first group you meet. After a while make a polite excuse, e.g., “It was nice to meet you.” Move around the room, spending about 10 minutes with each new person. You will find you can leave conversations without being rude. Networking means circulating, and most people at the event are aware of this. Follow up on all information and leads. Stay in touch and help other people to connect. Here’s a video of Networking Dos and Don’ts (1:26).
Put your networking into practice at the dining table. Did you know that 80 percent of second interviews involve a meal? Treat it as an interview, arrive on time and turn off your cell phone. Wait to sit until the host(ess) indicates the seating arrangement. Place your napkin in your lap before eating or drinking. Keep the order cost within a moderate range. Consider it to be a talking lunch when ordering. This is not a time to scarf down! Wait until everyone has been served before you begin eating (don’t just dig in). Practice good posture and sit up straight.
Bring the food to your mouth—not your head to the plate. Season your food only after you have tasted it. Place your napkin on your chair seat if excusing yourself. Know what utensils are used for which food items. Pass all items to the right and pitcher handles forward toward the person. Pass salt and pepper together. If reaching for an item, pass it before serving yourself. Rest utensils on your plate when speaking.
Keep your elbows off the table when eating, don’t chew with your mouth open and don’t blow on your food. Place your napkin beside your plate when you are finished eating. Express gratitude to the employer for hosting the meal. Here’s a video of Table Manners Dos and Don'ts (2:56).
Put your network into practice in your job search. Be honest and respectful in the job search. Apply to jobs you are genuinely interested in. Be prepared and on time for interviews. Call 24 hours before canceling, and reschedule if possible. Do not accept an interview if not interested or just for fun or the practice. Don’t accept a job and then continue job searching.
6. Track Your Contacts and Follow Up
7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Always remember to thank people for their time and assistance. This goes a long way towards encouraging others to want to help you. Be grateful for those who are willing to help. Every meeting you get and the opportunities that will become available will be because of the work you put into networking and establishing relationships. Make sure to write a thank you note and keep in contact. Pay it forward—if you are asked to help someone else looking for a job, do it! What you give you get in return.
When emailing make the subject line specific. Clean up, proofread and spell check the message before sending. Do not use emoticons and sign with “sincerely” or provide a signature line. Do not type in all caps, as it appears you are shouting. Remain current with all email and only copy questions when replying.
Adapted from Leigh Turner, Ed.D., director of career services, Texas A & M University.