Networking is about getting to know people, and you are doing this every day as you chat with someone in line at the store or meet someone at a school event or when you are visiting with a family friend. Building your network is a valuable job search resource. To be successful at networking, you must learn to form mutually beneficial relationships with others and it involves both give and take. Some day, you may be contacted as a networking connection for someone else. The number one way to secure employment in today’s competitive market is through networking. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) estimates that 75–80% of available positions are never advertised but are filled through word-of-mouth or networking.
Everyone! Networking means developing a broad list of contacts. Initially, you will utilize your existing resources for contacts to spread the word that you are looking for a job. For college students and new grads, the best networking contacts are:
- LinkedIn contacts and groups such as WMU Career Mentors
- Relatives, friends and acquaintances
- Classmates and former classmates
- Alumni, including recent grads
- Parents of classmates
- Professors, instructors and advisors
- Professional student organization members and members of other groups you belong to
- Coaches and administrators
- Current and former co-workers
There are three different types of contacts, and while you may begin with those contacts closest to you, eventually you will include all three types of contacts in your network.
- Hot contact: A person you know well and with whom you have a direct connection
- Warm contact: A person with whom you have a connection, but you may not know them personally
- Cold contact: A person with whom you have no connection
- Networking is often about first impressions. Dress well, polish how you speak, make eye contact, and present yourself to impress others. Practice your personal introduction and be prepared to use it.
- Prepare questions. Networking is a conversation between two people, so it is best to have questions in mind when speaking with someone about their career.
- Follow up with every person you meet. A short note telling someone that you enjoyed meeting them will solidify your initial impression and help them remember you.
- Stay Connected. Networking will be an ongoing part of how you manage your career, so stay in touch with your contacts. When someone helps you, make sure you thank them.
- Stay organized, in a notebook, or in a database file on your computer. You can also use a contact management application if you have a smartphone. It is important to keep track of your contacts and your communication with them.