What Exactly is Networking?
Networking is simply the sharing of information between you and another person. Asking your neighbor for a restaurant recommendation is an example of networking.
Professional networking involves establishing relationships with people who can help you advance your career. Asking a new contact if they have a job at their place of employment for you, or if they’d be willing to give your resume to HR is NOT networking. Networking is about showing sincere interest in others and being willing to share information with them as well. Networking involves a two-way exchange, not just taking.
How Do I Network?
Network is definitely more of an art than a science, however, the following tips can be used to guide you as your become more savvy in the art of networking.
Have a contact card. A contact card is a personal business card that includes your name, LinkedIn URL, email, cell phone, and areas of expertise. Having your own card to offer will make it easier to ask someone else for his or hers. It's also a great way to promote your "brand."
Develop your already-established network. Don’t overlook your existing contacts. Family members, co-workers, neighbors, people in your religious community are already part of your network. When you spend time with these people, start talking about your future plans and goals. Not only is this good practice, but they may have great advice or opportunities for you.
Seek out new contacts. Being on a college campus, you are surrounded by others with whom you can connect: classmates, student organization members, staff, and faculty are all potential contacts. If there is a specific person you want to have in your network, locate them! Simply approach someone confidently, stick out you hand, and introduce yourself. It sounds scary at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Have your elevator pitch ready. An elevator pitch is a speech that can be delivered in the time it takes a ride an elevator. Your speech doesn’t have to be memorized, but you should have several refrains that you can easily customize to your situation. For example: “I am about to graduate from IUPUI with a degree in chemistry. This major allowed me to develop strong problem-solving and reasoning skills. I am currently working as a part-time intern at MolecuTech, which I love….”
LinkedIn is a must for networking. For those unfamiliar with LinkedIn, we have provided a guide below to help you get started.
Keep an on-going list of the people in your growing network. Reach out to them on a regular basis. Offer to introduce them to each other and ask them to introduce you to some of their contacts as well. A great way to stay on top of this is by scheduling 10 minutes a day into your calendar for networking. Make a phone call or write a letter to the people in your network. Let them know what is happening in your life and ask about them.
Don’t view networking as an imposition. Don’t apologize for asking for advice. Most people feel honored that you are looking to them for advice or input. And remember, you aren’t networking just to get something out of someone else. Approach networking from the perspective of “How can I help this person.”
Above all, follow these four rules and you’ll do fine:
- Smile: It’s easy to do and it tells people that you are friendly and personable.
- Ask a question: If you’re shy, this is a great way to engage in a conversation.
- Listen: Good networkers listen; they listen and remember. It’s also a great way to engage if you are shy, because you can let the other person do a lot of the talking.
- Say the person’s name: People like to hear their own name, so use it in the conversation. Doing so makes the person feel more comfortable, like you really know her and she knows you.