Who you know is as important as what you know. A strong network of contacts is critical in any stage of your career. While it can be intimidating when you feel like you’re starting from scratch, we’ll help you develop a great network!
Start Building Your Network
1. Who do you know?
- Brainstorm everyone who could possibly serve as a contact.
- Don’t limit yourself to people who are in your career field. Friendly, accessible people in unrelated fields often have contacts they would be happy to share.
- To get started here are some suggestions: family friends, relatives, neighbors, professors, advisers, classmates, alumni, former co-workers and supervisors, and members of professional organizations.
2. Prepare Yourself - Online and In-Person
- Approach all networking opportunities with a game plan. Before you meet with a contact or attend a networking event, prepare and do your homework.
- Having a professional web presence is as simple as having a LinkedIn page, but you should also understand what other information might be on the web about you already. Check out our guide to professional social networking and online identity.
- Get business cards. Sites like Vistaprint and Moo have inexpensive options for pre-designed cards. Make sure your cards include contact information for any relevant social networks you’re using in your job search.
- Ask yourself what you’d like to know more about, and develop an “elevator speech” - a short (30-60 seconds) pitch that summarizes who you are and what you’re looking for.
3. Get Connected
- Start contacting the people on your list, and tell them about your career plans and ask for advice or referrals.
- When you meet with someone, respect their time by being prepared. Have a list of questions you’d like to ask, and always follow-up with a thank you email or note.
- Attend events and be visible. Many professional organizations have open events for non-members, or discounted student membership rates. Also, sites like Meetup or Eventbrite have listings for local gatherings of all kinds of professionals.
- Conduct informational interviews with professionals.
- Use online social networks like LinkedIn.
- Have conversations everywhere you go. Everyone is a potential contact.
4. Keep in Touch
- In addition to your follow-up thank you notes or emails, keep in regular contact with your network.
- Be in touch with them 2-3 times a year to stay fresh in their minds, and to keep them updated on your job search.