Networking is basically connecting with people you don’t already know in order to advance your business agenda. These days, the ability to identify specific individuals has become easier through technology, but contacting them can be intimidating; it is often uncomfortable to reach out to people on an unsolicited basis for the purpose of getting to know more about them, their company or industry - and ask for assistance. This may include a job search, recruiting, selling a product or service, applying to college or understanding an industry.
There are many ways to develop a network, through colleagues, communities, friends, professional associations, alumnae associations, trade events and, of course, the internet. If you are looking for a job, networking is vital to identifying job opportunities and individuals, within your desired organization. The best jobs are not always posted on job boards, and knowing about new opportunities is often only found by contacting specific employees within the company, introducing yourself, and asking about potential openings.
Even broadening your exposure within your existing company will often provide valuable connections that may refer you to new job opportunities or promotions. Participating in company projects, outside of your specific group, will give you exposure and allow you to see the bigger picture. If a job should become available in a different department, knowing and contacting someone from that department may help advance your candidacy.
Volunteering or attending trade shows will also create opportunities to meet people that may be helpful to you in the future. So introducing yourself and exchanging business cards is important in maintaining these connections. Networking in person requires preparation and a willingness to speak with people you don’t already know. A conversation such as:
Hi, I am (Your Name), It is nice to meet you.
I am enjoying this (conference; seminar; meeting). How about you?
What brought you here today?
How did you hear about this (event, project, presentation)?
What did you think about (speaker, topic)
The above are just a few ice-breakers that will get the conversation going. You can also be more casual and discuss the weather; traffic; sports - anything that may be a common interest to the person you are meeting. In the end the conversation should result in an exchange of names and business cards for future reference. And following up with a Networking email will improve the connection.
While engaging with people at various functions is one networking method, building your professional profile online, and regularly researching other professionals in your industry, is the best way to develop your network - especially for a job search. There are unlimited communities on websites, such as LinkedIn; the ability to navigate and search for companies and individuals has never been easier. Your online efforts may expedite your job search by identifying key individuals within a company where you are hoping to work. Networking online is a bit easier than face-to-face or cold calling someone; you have more time to consider what you want to say, and how you will respond. An online introduction is less about your communication style or physical presence; it is more about what you write and how you express yourself.
Introducing yourself online should include your name, your company, your job title and a brief statement about your background. These are the basic necessary elements before starting an online dialogue. Be specific about your goals and why you are reaching out to them.
I would like to reach out to you specifically because you went to this (college) and subsequently pursued a career similar to what I am hoping to do.
Here are examples of (classwork, organizations) from my undergrad degree or from high school.
Explain why you are working towards that goal, so that the recipient will feel that they are part of your career journey and not just part of a mass mailing. They will feel that perhaps only they can help you. Instead of asking how to get a job interview, consider asking how to deal with a specific situation. A preliminary discussion may ultimately lead to a meeting.
If you have questions, include them in your email with bullets. This gives the recipient the scope of the questions you may have, and also lets them know that you have given thought to why you want to talk with them. They may not call, but they might provide written responses. Ask compelling questions, not questions that can easily be found online. If possible, ask questions that only they can answer. This increases the chances of you receiving a response. Looking for mentors and networking is a numbers game. Mostly you will not get a response, but with diligence, you will hear from one or two and begin to grow your network.
My name is xyz and I am a sophomore at (University) studying finance. I am interested in pursuing a career in banking and noticed that you are currently an associate at (abc firm)
I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about your role and the firm, as well as to hear about your time at (University)
I am available this week on __________days. Please let me know if there is a time that works for you.
Signature (contact information)
For a professional looking for a new job, reaching out to someone in the desired industry or company might be:
My name is (Your Full Name), and I am currently (Job Title) at (Company) where I have been working for over 6 years. I am hoping to identify new opportunities where I am better able to advance my career in the (xyz) industry. I found online that your company has positions that are of great interest to me.
I noticed in your profile that you have been in your job for (x) years, and I am wondering if you have any advice about how to initiate a job search in your company. I would love an opportunity to speak with you, when convenient.
I look forward to following-up with you soon.
The above letter simply states the individual’s name and work situation, then asks for advice.
A general format for a written networking message is as follows:
After a connection is established, it is important to maintain that relationship by staying in touch and reciprocating with an offer to assist them in the future.
Often the best job opportunities are found through networking, so it is important to reach out to as many people as possible and introduce yourself. Just sending resumes online will rarely produce results. Whether in person or through online networking, the opportunities are unlimited, and you will benefit from receiving advice, sharing information, and identify amazing job opportunities - if you put yourself out there.