Do you have a solid network that you can rely on? And no, I am not talking about the 1976 Oscar-winning movie “Network.” Instead, I am referring to the tried and true method of meeting people and organizing your contacts in order to help you out in the job market.
One benefit is access to job and internship opportunities that are only available through friends, family and colleagues. Also, with a solid network, you have access to advice from people who actually know you. To this point, it’s no coincidence that seed capital for entrepreneurs tends to start with the friends and family network.
When networking, it is important to organize yourself. So, get out your Rolodex and start sorting. But, if you don’t have a Rolodex (I sadly admit that I have never used one), a notebook, or a computer spreadsheet will work just fine. It is important to keep track of your contacts’ names, what they have been up to, how you met them etc. Furthermore it is important to keep in touch. But, don’t only keep in touch when you need something from your contact. Try to call/e-mail/grab lunch during the good times so that when you do need their help, they don’t only remember you as someone “taking” but maybe as someone who they want to stay in touch with based on your common interests.
It is also important to meet new contacts. While this might be unnerving, Middlebury has a great alumni network called MiddNet to help you out. eNetSC.com offers amazing advice on how to approach a potential contact. They recommend that you “solicit career tips and advice from your contact.” However, they stress that you avoid asking questions such as “‘Do you know of any jobs that would be good for me?’” For more tips, make sure to check out their article.
All holidays, parties and events are networking opportunities. An article at CNNMoney.com recommends that to these events you arrive unfashionably early because it is easier to enter a room full of five strangers than it is to enter a room with thirty strangers. Furthermore, the article brings up the fact that if you are there early you already have your conversation starter, “So, um, I guess we’re the first ones here …”
And last but not least, make sure you help out your contacts. Whether the person is another student, a friend’s uncle or a family member, if the person asks for help, try to give it. You might not have a job offer in your pocket waiting to give someone, but if you know of a new company in someones sector, let them know. A relationship is about communication as well as give and take, all of which applies to networking. As in all cases, if someone helps you out, write them a thank you note. There is nothing like a little bit of gratitude to nudge someone towards rose-colored glasses.