WHAT IS NETWORKING?
Networking is the act of growing your professional connections as it pertains to your career path. It is a powerful tool that can help you to find employment and get ahead in your career. Ask a friend, family member, or professor if they know someone in the field you are interested in. You will be surprised by the number of connections you have made, and potential referrals that you will receive. Networking is the first step that will help you stand out as a potential candidate to employers; it is the link between the candidate sending the resume and the personal connection of promoting yourself. Having a group of diverse and established professionals will help enrich your connections and serve as the foundation of your professional network.
WHO DO I NETWORK WITH?
The great part about networking is that you probably do it on a day-to-day basis without knowing. All the people you know: friends, family, peers, professors, coworkers etc. are part of your network. Reaching out to the people you know is the easiest and first step to establish a professional relationship.
There are also many opportunities to reach out to professionals you don't know: job fairs, internships, networking events, panel discussions, symposiums, class speakers, company visits, volunteer work, social gatherings. These are chances to meet and speak with people who can help you in your career. Keep in mind that professionals choose to attend these events to share their insights and connect with students, so take advantage of these opportunities.
HOW DO I NETWORK?
One important tip about networking is that you should not ask for a job immediately. You should be building lasting relationships with people of common interests in the fields in which you are interested. A good rule of thumb is the 80-20 rule; 80 percent of the time you should be listening, and for about 20 percent of the time you should be talking. Ask open ended questions regarding their career, their interests, whatever you feel will make a lasting conversation. People love talking about themselves and the advice they have; the more they talk, the more you will learn.
Although networking is not a formal interview, it should be treated professionally. This entails being respectful to the people you are speaking with – they may be a future coworker, or even a future boss! Small talk is useful and pleasant; however you should be careful of becoming too informal.
It's vital to understand that networking is more than finding a job. It is about connecting with professionals, learning about your field of interest and discovering your career path.