Networking is a great way to learn about the professional world, and it opens the door to many job opportunities that never get listed.
You can make valuable career connections through a variety of sources, including:
- Your personal relationships. Talk to your relatives, family friends, members of your religious community, and members of organizations you belong to.
- Your professional relationships. These include colleagues, internship supervisors, members of professional associations, customers, and clients.
- Your social media connections. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter give you instant access to a world of contacts.
Set up an informational interview
- You are not asking the person for a job. You are gathering information on which to base some decisions. Make sure your contacts understand this.
- If you have been referred by a specific person, mention that early in your message.
- Request a 30-minute meeting at or near each contact's work site to make it convenient for him or her and so that you can experience his or her work environment. You can also offer to take them out for coffee.
- In your initial outreach, state how you found them and why you are reaching out.
"I've recently graduated from Boston College, and I'm interested in learning more about the field of publishing. I found your name in the Boston College Career Community group on LinkedIn, and I'd like to set up a time to meet with you and ask you some questions about your career."
- If you can't meet face-to-face, set up a time to "meet" by Skype or phone.
- Prepare questions to ask ahead of time. In addition to some of the general questions listed below, plan to develop questions specific to the industry, position and organization of the person you are interviewing.
(See Using Email for more information.)
During the interview
- Be prepared to take the lead in the conversation. Remember you are interviewing him/her. Check our Sample Questions for more ideas.
- Dress in professional attire as if this were a “real” interview.
- Respect the person’s time. Be appreciative without being apologetic.
- Recognize that everyone has his/her own attitudes, biases and feelings which must be evaluated. By talking to several people, you will gain a variety of opinions.
- Send a thank you email immediately following your meeting.
- If somebody referred you to another contact who was particularly helpful, write to the original person and let them know.
- Keep your contacts updated on your progress. Maintaining your contacts is an ongoing process that will help you throughout your career.
- Networking is a mutually beneficial process. If you discover a resource or article that you think one of your contacts would appreciate, pass it along to them.