by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
If you're reading this article, you probably don't need convincing that networking is the most effective job-search strategy. But perhaps you'd like to know how to get the most bang for your networking buck. Want to know the five very best networking strategies? You've come to the right place.
- Conduct informational interviews. These interviews are all about gathering information for your job search -- but also about adding valuable contacts to your network -- contacts who are invested in your success because they've gotten to know you through an interview that you've initiated. Learn more in our article, Informational Interviewing: A Top Tool for College Students, and learn how to conduct informational interviews with our Tutorial.
- Cultivate the best network contacts for college students. Brainstorm everyone from your college life who could be a member of your network. Your college peers/classmates, as well as very recent alumni, are among the best contacts for college students because they are in touch with current hiring needs and are going through the same process that you are -- or they went through it recently. Then think about all the prospective network contacts in the circle of your college life and beyond, such as:
- anyone else with ties to the school
- guest speakers
- past and present employers
- people in your religious organization
- professional organizations (look into student chapters or student memberships in organizations of interest)
- volunteer groups
Make a list of everyone you might approach to solicit advice and referrals for your job search.
Also consider attending trade shows in your field and events specifically intended for networking, such as Chamber of Commerce functions in your hometown or in the city in which you want to work after graduation.
- Use networking cards. As a college student, you probably don't have a business card to leave with the people with whom you network. But you can still hand your network contacts something to remember you by -- a networking card with contact data and information about your skills and what you want to do with those skills after graduation. You can have these cards printed inexpensively or create them yourself on your computer, Learn more in our article, Networking Business Cards: An Essential Job-Search Tool for Career Changers and College Students When A Resume Just Won't Do.
- Exude gratitude. One of the biggest mistakes any networker makes is failing to thank his or her contacts for their interest, help, and time. Thank members of your network for even the smallest bit of help or advice. An e-mailed thank-you will do for minor assistance, but consider a postal-mailed card or note -- or even flowers or a lunch invitation for more significant help from a contact. Also keep in touch with members of your network and update them on your search.
- Participate in online social media -- but not at the expense of face-to-face networking. It's important in today's job search to maintain a positive online presence so employers and recruiters can find you. Just don't spend all your time networking online because mingling with warm bodies is far more effective. Consider implementing Hansen's Online Social-Media Formula:
- Your own Website with your name as its domain name or a LinkedIn profile
- Facebook profile
- Twitter presence
- LinkedIn profile (if you don't already have one as a substitute for your own Web site)
- a presence on up to three more social-media venues, such as niche networking sites related to your profession and online discussion boards or e-mail groups about common professional interests.
Be sure also to avoid "digital dirt" -- risque photos, status updates that involve sex, substance use, politics, and other dicey topics.
For tips on making the most of your social-media presence, read our article Five Strategies for Leveraging Your Online Social Networks.
Final Thoughts on Networking
Networking is a big subject encompassing numerous techniques and approaches (see our networking section), but if you do nothing more than implement the five strategies in this article, your networking efforts should get off to a splendid start.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Achieve career networking success! Take advantage of all the career networking tools, articles, and resources found in our The Art of Career Networking section of Quintessential Careers.