Tips for NetworkingBy April Calkovsky, Career Coach & Certified Federal Advisor, University Advising & Career Development Center
Networking is the single most important thing you can do to enhance your employment prospects. By networking, I mean meet people – face to face or even online. Creating a professional network is about making connections with those who may share an interest, building rapport, and developing relationships that foster enough care to encourage idea sharing, support, and connection to resources.
Examine your current network of people
To begin building your own network, start by looking around you. Who do you know already? At this moment, you have a healthy network of colleagues in the classroom, advisors, faculty, friends, family, and people you know from the places you volunteer, shop regularly, and the service providers you get to know such as hair stylists and barbers, doctors, and even your accountant.
When you evaluate those relationships, consider asking them more about what they do and talk with them about what you want to do. Encourage a natural conversation about work life and job prospects. Any one of these individuals could know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone that may have the opportunity you’ve been searching for. Ask for connections, for introductions via email or phone, or even LinkedIn. Have coffee. Talk over the phone. Establish rapport.
Find groups and events to expand your network
When it comes to making connections with those who may directly and more immediately impact your job search, look to alumni groups, professional associations and their local chapter meetings or regional conferences, local Chamber of Commerce events, Young Professionals groups, and meeting employers face to face at career fairs on campus.
Next Wednesday, February 8th, from 1-4pm in the Student Center Ballroom, the Government and Nonprofit Career and Volunteer Fair is taking place. With 50 employers attending, it’s the largest group of local, state, and federal employers and nonprofit organizations in one place on campus. These employers are offering volunteer, internship, part-time, and full-time opportunities. Even if some employers (especially the federal government) do not accept resumes in person, the value is in meeting recruiters face to face and leaving a strong first impression. Securing a business card from a recruiter is a powerful sign that they want you to follow up with them directly – so do it!
Be prepared and follow up
When attending networking events like those mentioned above, it is important to be prepared. Have several copies of your perfected resume on hand (use a padfolio to keep yourself organized), create business cards for yourself listing your name, contact info, and field of study, have a goal in mind – how many people you want to speak with, how many business cards you want to collect – and make notes about your experience immediately after leaving the event. Follow up with those you connected with by sending an email 1-2 days later. Considering the context of your conversation with them, ask for a follow up meeting over a cup of coffee or lunch.
See how you can help others
Don’t allow networking relationships to be solely one-sided. Learn from your new connections what they are seeking and then comb through your own contacts for helpful connections. This could be something as simple as recommending a great Mediterranean restaurant, a reliable mechanic, or a trustworthy attorney. Exchanging personal referrals builds connection and strengthens your network — they will see you as a reliable source of information and hold you in greater esteem.
Volunteer for a cause you care about
An additional way to build your network is to volunteer in your community or with your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. Find a cause you care about or that is related to the field you want to work within and donate your time. You will be among like-minded individuals who all have their own web of connections. Show them your work ethic, your creativity, your strategic thinking and problem solving skills. Don’t overextend yourself because you don’t want to be seen as a pushover. On the contrary, showing them that you have boundaries and limits on the time you can provide indicates that you know how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Strengthen your LinkedIn profile
LinkedIn is a great professional networking tool, especially for those nervous about meeting people in person. Create your profile with as much information as you’d like, develop a strong summary that lets others know about your accomplishments and your ambitions, and join groups of professionals with similar interests to share in discussion threads about trends in your industry. Use the “My Network” feature to search EMU Alumni in various cities, with various job titles, and see where people work. Reach out to those individuals who have the jobs you want (short term and long term) or who work for the companies you are targeting.
If you want assistance creating a networking or job search strategy, reach out to me, April Calkovsky, Career Coach in the University Advising and Career Development Center at [email protected]. Or schedule an appointment using Handshake or by calling 734-487-0400. Handshake is the job/internship portal you already have access to through your my.emich.edu Student tab – located just under the Canvas logo. I hold an MPA from The Ohio State University, and I am also a Certified Federal Advisor (and yes, the federal government is still hiring). I can assist with resume critiques, interview prep, and learning more about marketing yourself.