Finding employment is a terrifying and daunting task for many. After our schooling, we are let out into the world, with our resumes in hand, desperately searching for someone willing to hire us. These transitions are rarely smooth ones, especially with advisers and colleagues constantly buzzing in our ears with comments like, “Getting a job is now about who you know in the industry” or “Having a strong resume just isn’t enough anymore.” With this discouraging advice in mind, it is common to wonder how exactly one can get their name out there in the business world. This is where the importance of networking comes into play.
Unfortunately, many people fail to realize how many job offers present themselves through personal contacts. Connecting with others can be a big advantage when looking for work. More opportunities become available if you have a genuine interest in getting to know others, and allowing them to get to know you. Just think, if you were an employer would you feel more comfortable interviewing someone who was referred to you by a trusted friend, or someone who was completely foreign to you? The obvious choice is clearly someone who was referred to you, which is precisely why, according to the Borough of Manhattan Community College, over 70 percent of hires result from networking. This is why networking is crucial when striving to build these relationships. Maintaining these ongoing connections could end up benefiting you immensely in the long-run.
There are many simple, but useful methods one can use when starting the networking process. The Borough of Manhattan Community College offers the suggestion of building a “Network Worksheet.” This worksheet would separate and organize the categories of people in your life. Certain categories might include friends, classmates, alumni, faculty, family, friends, current and former co-workers, supervisors, coaches, relatives, neighbors, professional acquaintances, people you meet at parties, etc. The site also offers appropriate questions to ask when networking.
Once you have started building your network, there are often many questions and concerns that may come up when figuring out the most efficient way to build these connections. A list of helpful networking tips might assist you when trying to answer these questions.
Another essential element to networking involves the “follow up.” After receiving someone’s business card or information, it is crucial that you make that first step by reaching out to them. By showing an interest and making that effort to contact that person, it becomes clearer that you are serious about building a relationship with that person. This will make it easier to gain access to opportunities that may become available to you.
The idea of networking can make people feel uncomfortable due to the misconception that it is all about “using people.” This is why many often struggle with the balance of networking in a meaningful way. To help guide your relationships in the right directions, however, Living for Monday offers five principles of networking success. These principles can ensure that you don’t appear too “fake” or “needy” when networking:
- Do your Research. It is important to learn about the people who you wish to network with as your connection deepens. Look into their background, and find out if their goals and interests coincide with your own. Discovering the ins and outs of what exactly that person does can inspire you to gain a genuine interest in their work.
- Offer to Help. Networking is all about how you can help the person you want to build a relationship with. Due to the norm of reciprocity, if you help others, then they will be more willing to return the favor by helping you. Helping others also creates a bond of trust that is essential when connecting with people.
- Have a Desire to Learn. If you obtain the mindset that every person is an expert at something, then it might be more motivating for you to find out what that expertise is. Take networking as an opportunity to learn from others and listen for any meaningful pieces of advice they might have for you.
- Ask Great Questions. Asking meaningful questions can often lead to creating meaningful relationships. When asking these questions, you should be sure to listen hard, take notes, and remember what people tell you. The people you network with will most likely have more wisdom and experiences than you in the business world. No matter what field you are trying to break into, one can always learn about this new, unfamiliar life after school through those who have already lived it.
- Care about the People. Be sure to understand and recognize the commonalities there are between the people you network with. As you figure out who you want to network with, be sure to find people who inspire you. This will motivate you to put the time and effort in these relationships that need to be maintained.
Make sure that you are constantly networking, and not only when it becomes convenient for you. It is important to continue to reach out to these people even when you aren’t necessarily looking for a job during that time. Networking does not have to be a “sleazy” activity if you truly care about the people and the relationships you build. Networking can be a positive thing that helps you grow and move your life in the direction you want it to go.
Alexandra Zuccaro is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A in English. She a strong interest in journalism and hopes to pursue a career in the field.