Networking: What Is It?
Simply put, it’s reaching out to people with whom you share a connection to learn new information. Sometimes that’s about internships and jobs, majors and careers, but sometimes it’s about where to find an apartment in a new city—or a great restaurant, or a place to get your hair cut. We are all “networking” all the time!
Your share a connection to Middlebury with 7,500+ alumni career volunteers on MiddNet. They want to hear from you about your career aspirations and challenges. They also want to know what’s happening on campus: you’ve got something to offer them as well. Below are some tips to help you make the most out of these valuable exchanges.
Check out the 5-Minute Career Clips (online workshops) at the bottom of this page for a brief step-by-step guide to conducting a networking conversation.
Check out these examples of how to write an e-mail introducing yourself to a MiddNet volunteer.
But first, make it count!
Before you make that contact or attend a networking event, be sure
that you are practiced and confident in your networking skills.
Know yourself: your competencies and relevant skills. Know what you want to learn about: which industry or career area interests you.
Why Network? Three Compelling Reasons
1. Most job opportunities (70 percent) are uncovered through networking: More jobs are found this way than through the "want ads," or company websites, or even through online job-listing sites. Although you'll want to use all of these channels in your job search, your time is best invested in networking and developing personal connections through your growing network.
2. Most job hunters don't know enough about the jobs they are pursuing:
Networking to gather this information enables you to better articulate why you are a good "fit" for the job—and this makes you a more competitive candidate.
3. Hiring is risky and expensive for employers:
If you are referred to an employer by someone that person knows and trusts, then you are a "safer bet" and a more attractive candidate.
Your Two Goals for Networking
- Gather "insider" career information and advice from people who work
in the career area or company that you've targeted as your interest.
- Gain referrals (connections) to other people who can also provide career advice and information.
Before You Start
- Identify your career-related interests, skills, and values to establish a meaningful discussion with your networks. The list of Core Professional Competencies will help you identify the skills you’ve developed as a liberal arts student.
- Research industries and companies, using the CCI Career Library.
- Identify appropriate contacts in the industries and/or companies that interest you, using MiddNet, professors, family, friends, etc.
Networking Does Not Mean Asking for a Job!
Networking is an essential part of your job-search strategy, but asking directly for a job is not effective networking. This is true for a number of reasons:
1. To ask directly will likely be off-putting to your contact, who might feel put on the spot. Unless the person knows you, why would she be willing to risk her reputation by referring you to a job lead? On the other hand, nearly everyone is willing to share information and advice with you. Ask for, and learn from, the information and advice offered you—and if the contact is impressed with you and your conversation, and if she does know of a job lead, she may then be inclined to share that lead with you.
2. If you ask directly for a job and if the answer to your question is "no," then the conversation becomes a dead end. This misses the opportunity to create a connection with the person or to gain other referrals to other potential contacts.
3. Limiting your networking connections only to those contacts whom you think may have job leads for you, severely limits the number of connections you can make and hampers your ability to gain important information and advice about the industry, field, or company that you are researching.
Remember, letting people know that you are looking for a job is not the same as asking them for a job!
Step-by-Step Guides for "How to Network"
To network effectively, you'll need to be prepared and comfortable for both types of networking:
The Informal Networking Conversation happens in any social setting (family gatherings, weddings, college events, etc.) or any professional gathering (networking events, conferences, meetings, etc.) where you might be asked the question, "What do you do?" or "What kind of work do you want to do?" For these informal situations, be ready with your prepared "Elevator Speech." Don't leave home without it!
The planned Networking Interview is a scheduled, brief conversation (by phone or in person) that you have requested of someone, in which you ask prepared questions in order to gather information about the person's career field, industry, job, or company. For the Networking Interview (aka the Informational Interview), you'll need a concise "script" for how to talk about yourself and a prepared set of questions that you wish to ask. Click here for some samples, illustrating how to write the introductory e-mail or letter to request an informational interview.
CLICK HERE for tips on how to develop and use your Elevator Speech.
Get a helpful template to use in crafting your Elevator Speech.
See how the Elevator Speech works and how to incorporate it into
the normal flow of a conversation.