Networking is, simply put, building strategic alliances. It’s not contacting everyone you know to find out if they know of any job openings, but rather a more proactive approach of gathering information about a particular company, career field, graduate school or even a geographic location long before your actual job search begins. Many positions are filled by word-of-mouth and referrals. So, the old saying just may be true, “It’s not just who you know, it’s who knows you”. Keep in mind that you are 3-4 times more likely to get the internship or job if you know someone in that company.
Goals of Networking
Many great outcomes can come from networking, including gaining information and advice about a targeted career field and industry, learning more about potential job opportunities, and connecting with professionals who have similar interests and passions. It is also a great way for more people to learn about you and what you have to offer. There are a variety of ways that you can network, through informational interviews, attending SMU Career Events like Resumania, Speed Networking, Company Information Sessions, and the Career and Internship Fair, connecting with alum, professors, and colleagues on LinkedIn, and talking with family and friends to learn more about what they do and who they potentially can connect you with. As networking can take on these various forms, developing your elevator speech, fine tuning your LinkedIn profile, and honing your informational interviewing skills are essential.
The most effective networking begins in your own backyard. Strong ties are people that have greater motivation to be of assistance and are typically more easily available. Begin by having intentional conversations with your family, family friends, friends, former employers, faculty, and certainly other SMU students. Most people are happy to share advice, so don’t be shy. Until you have asked them about their major, student group membership, company, career path or city, you don’t know what you don’t know, and you certainly don’t know WHO they know.
Networking is a powerful way to learn about your area of interest and to begin meeting more people in the field. Weak ties are people that provide you with access to information and resources beyond those available in their own social circle. For example, let’s say that by talking to your mom (A) about your career interests, you discover that her college roommate (B) is an executive at your target company. You can then request an introduction through your mom and it is likely that you will be able to set-up an informational interview with your mom’s college roommate which will introduce new information into your major/job knowledge. You can increase the number of weak ties by developing and strengthening your on-line network.
Informational interviewing is a way to expand upon and deepen your networking skills. It is a great method for career exploration and discovering jobs not publicly advertised. Unlike a job interview, informational interviewing allows you talk with people and gain an "insider's perspective" on a specific career field. It is a very effective tool both in exploration and in the job search as it allows you to expand your job market information, deepen your understanding of the world of work and different work settings, learn how to leverage your skills and experience, and gain clarity on areas of weakness that you can work to improve.
Assess Yourself. What are your own interests, skills, knowledge areas, and personal attributes? Be able to speak about yourself with enthusiasm and confidence (note: there is a difference between confidence and arrogance!).
Research: If it’s not a family member, research information about your potential contact and his/her field.
Have a Plan: Decide what information you hope to obtain from your contact and create a list of questions you would like to have answered. The Informational Interview Guide is a great place to start.
Meet with a Career Counselor: If you’re not sure how to tackle the networking process or if you simply want to practice, feel free to set-up an appointment with a career counselor in the Hegi Family Career Development Center. Remember, you are representing yourself and SMU as a whole, so we want to make sure you put your best foot forward.
HOW TO MAKE CONTACT
Start with your existing network of family, friends, former employers, faculty etc. As you begin having career-focused conversations with these people, always ask for at least one more contact who they would recommend.
SMU Alumni: Join the SMU Alumni & Hegi Career Services LinkedIn group. Get started by visiting LinkedIn and use How to Create a Professional LinkedIn Profile handout to help you create your profile. LinkedIn is an online forum to share career-related knowledge, information, referrals, and advice across industries and geographic locations. It is also a good idea to get involved with your local SMU Alumni Chapter.
Get Involved: Leadership and community are critical in building new connections on campus. Join professional associations for your industry and get involved with your local chapter. Many associations have frequent meetings as well as networking events.
Start Talking: Whether you’re volunteering, out shopping or on an airplane, strike-up a conversation. Take time to learn about the other person and then share your information. You never know who may be in the seat right next to you.