Oops ... I Almost Forgot My Networking Skills!
By UCLA Career Center
The concept of networking is simple: It's letting people know that you're in the job market, describing your interests and the kind of work you prefer, and asking for advice and assistance in achieving your career goals. It may sound like insincere schmoozing, but networking is really an honest way to build business contacts for the rest of your career. Networking is about respecting the people you build relationships with. Networking is about being reliable, responsible, and accountable for all of your words and actions, and taking an interest in others.
The world revolves around relationships. Studies indicate that up to 80 percent of all positions (the "hidden job market") are obtained through networking and connections. Networking is a skill that will not only be critical to your job search, but will prove valuable throughout your entire career. Networking involves forming and nurturing relationships with people and recognizing that these contacts may lead you to a path that leads you to another path that can eventually lead you to your next job.
Start Making Contacts Now
Everyone you know and everyone you meet is a potential source of career advice and referrals to other individuals. Make a list of who you know. Include the names of roommates, friends, friends of friends, parents and relatives, classmates, TAs and professors. Add bosses and coworkers (past and present), and people you've met at the health club, while traveling or doing volunteer work. Expand your list with people from social, political or religious organizations. Include your physician and dentist. Suddenly, your list of connections has grown by leaps and bounds.
Build the Foundation
Before you begin the networking process, be sure you are clear about the kind of job you want and are qualified for, whether you're willing to move and where, the salary you expect, your lifestyle requirements and so on. By clarifying this kind of knowledge for yourself, you'll have more confidence.
Try to have fun with your networking activities and don't discuss work all of the time. Get to know what your professional acquaintances like to do in their spare time. Do they have a special interest? Do they volunteer for a cause? Ask questions, listen carefully and become well versed in their areas of interest and expertise.
Nurture and Maintain Your Networks
- Always respect your contact's name. Get an OK before you use a person's name as a referral to meet someone else.
- Remember the little things. Send contacts copies of newsletters, newspaper and magazine articles, reports and program materials that you think will interest them. Include a short, handwritten note than can be as simple as "FYI." Sharing articles that relate to your mutual career interests raise your professional credibility, showing that you keep abreast of industry trends.
- Think of creative ways to keep in touch. Send cards at holiday time. Extend an invitation to lunch for no particular reason. Send a congratulatory note to someone who has recently received a promotion or an advanced degree.
- Keep an eye on the clock. Respect other people's busy schedules and make sure you call at appropriate times that are convenient for your contacts.
- Don't overlook the common courtesies. Thank everyone who helps you or provides you with ideas or leads. It's wise to thank people for leads even if their suggestions don't pan out. Your contacts will appreciate the follow up.
Networking is a way of life. If you want your career to grow and blossom, you should approach networking as an art -- an art you develop skills for with practice, flexibility and patience. Read this article again sometime. Do your research. Stay focused and positive. Good luck.