Networking is not one-sided: it works both ways. You offer assistance to others just as they offer assistance to you. Perhaps the easiest way to think about networking is to see it as an extension of being friendly, outgoing, and active.
Here are some tips for building and maintaining a healthy network:
- Make a list of everyone you know, and people they know, and identify how they could help you gather career information or experience.
Professors, friends, and even friends’ parents can all be helpful contacts. Did you hold a part-time job? Volunteer? Complete an internship? Think about the people you came into contact with.
- Join a student organization related to your career choice.You’ll be with others who have the same general career interest. Plus, you may be able to learn more about your field from them. For example, you may be able to learn about the field and potential employers from others who share their internship experiences. Here are some local professional organizations:
- Volunteer at a local museum, theater, homeless shelter—anywhere that even remotely relates to your field of study.
By volunteering, you’ll not only learn about your chosen field firsthand, you’ll also be able to connect with people who are in the field.
- Speak to employers at career fairs, even if you’re not ready to look for a position. Touching base with a potential employer now can help you when you are ready.
- Attend employer information sessions (listed on CyHire) and talk one-on-one to the recruiters at them.
- Schedule informational interviews with people who can tell you about their careers. It’s best to ask to meet in person or by phone for a short interview, and don’t immediately start asking “How can you help me?” Plan your questions ahead of time, focusing on how the organization works and how the person shaped his or her career path.
- Add your profile to LinkedIn. And then, work your profile. Add work history (including internships!), skills, and keywords. Make connections to people you’ve worked with or met through networking. Ask for “recommendations” from people who have worked with you. You’ll find LinkedIn is a good source of suggestions for people in your field to contact for informational interviews.
- Remember to be courteous and tactful in all your conversations, send thank-you notes to people who help you, and find ways to help others as well. Don’t drop your network once you’ve gotten a job. Nurture the relationships you’ve built and look for opportunities to build new connections throughout your career. Getting started might be uncomfortable, but with time and practice, networking will be second nature.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.