As our annual Networking Night approaches, UMD’s juniors and seniors are thinking ahead toward their futures. Those futures include internships, informational interviews, and that first job out of college. Graduation also means they’ll become one of our 60,000 alumni. For these students, and the thousands of otherws with credits left to earn, networking is key to landing a job.
There are many ways to network and many situations that can lead to opportunities, be it at a career fair, a company happy hour social, or a specific networking night event. How might you prepare for one of these situations? Check out these 13 tips for networking so you can best showcase your superior skill set, whatever the situation!
1.) Get a co-op or internship. Did you know 60% of paid internships turn into job offers? You’ll gain industry experience, collect valuable connections, and have the opportunity to show the employer exactly what you’r capable of much more effectively than in a 30-minute interview.
Also, in a recent study conducted by Marketplace and the Chronicle of Higher Education, internships came back as the most important thing that employers look for when evaluating a recent college graduate.
2.) Be ready to start a conversation. You want to be able to sit down for five minutes and lead a healthy exchange that shows your level of intelligence, common sense, and sharpness. It’s not so much about a topic that you should shoot to talk about as much as it is the manner in which you can make the conversation flow (aim for zero awkward pauses!). Be selective, though; don’t talk politics or the weather.
3.) Always look your best. Think of going to class as your job. Perhaps USA Today College explains it best: “Surprise! There’s a guest speaker at class today and they’re looking to recruit interns for their company. However, you opted to skip the shower and thew on your super comfy sweatpants. As unfair as it may seem, research shows people make a first impression within seven seconds. And let’s face it: industry companies are too important to miss out on beacuse of a wardrobe mishap.”
4.) Make notes about the conversations you have and keep in touch. It’s as simple as dedicating a notebook or journal to logging each connection’s background information, family that he or she mentioned, and other main topics you discussed. This is incredibly valuable to look over prior to future conversations because it shows that person you value them.
5.) Know the limits. It’s great to make connections and add to your list of contacts, but you want to make sure your interest is genuine and you respect their personal and professional space. Don’t bombard and become obnoxious to a prospective contact with emails and phone messages!
6.) Label what you’re doing as something other than “networking”. CareerBuilder explains: “Some people have grown weary of being networked. Unless you are attending a function specifically earmarked for networking, it’s best not to advertise that fact that that is what you are doing. Instead, think of yourself as making connections, building relationships and seeking advice.”
7.) Volunteer with an area organization or support a cause. By dedicating time and energy to your community, your humanity is displayed, you make an actual impact on those around you, and it gives you an opportunity to mingle with other community members. If you’re not sure hot to give or volunteer, check out the Office of Civic Engagement and the ways they connect with the Duluth community.
8.) Listen to what they have to say. This will not only make you remember the conversation so that you can write down the main points later (remember, make notes!), but also allow you to ask better questions through the course of the conversation. Listening ins the difference between having a genuine conversation and simply meeting someone.
9.) Practice your elevator speech. What’s an elevator speech? It’s a short, concise summary to communicate with somebody — traditionally in the time it takes, or setting of, an elevator ride with a potential contact. Once you have your pitch ready — say, 10-30 seconds long — practice it so that you’re ready as soon as those stainless steel doors close.
10.) You’re a student — use it to your advantage! Connect with your school’s alumni (UMD has over 60,000) and discover how those people got the career of their dreams. Start by joining the Official UMD Alumni Association group on LinkedIn.
11.) Take advantage of career fairs. Whether the event is hosted by the local commerce organization or your college specifically, attending the fair is a no-brainer. You’ll have the chance to talk (and network) with the employers — the people making hiring decisions. You can ask them questions about the industry, their company, or even their personal decisions along the way in order to put a bow atop your personal talent package.
11.5) Make Twitter work for you. Students today are the generation of social media and should use this to their advantage. US News and Reports explains: “While LinkedIn is lauded as the professional social network, Twitter can be even more useful for connecting with people you want to know. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to, and use the network strategically to connect with them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter ca help you take all of these strategies to the next level because it provides an opportunity to keep in touch with the network you’re building.”
12.) Get your foot in the door. Reach out to prospective employers to request “informational interview”. Although an informational interview won’t necessarily result in a job, it’s a great way to get yourself noticed for a future position. If you make a good impression during the informational interview, you’ll likely be kept in mind as a candidate when a job does open up.
The other good thing about informational interviews is how you can learn about the company. Although you might not think that’s important — it is. Knowing more about acompany you potentially want to work for can help you learn about divisions you might not have know about — divisions where there might be jobs interesting to you — and make you mroe informed for an actual interview.
Make sure you are prepared; look your best, have questions to guide the conversation, and always be on time!
13.) Get on LinkedIn. The purpose of LinkedIn is to foster networking. You can reconnect with your past friends and classmates and showcase your competitive edge to prospective employers. In fact, according to a recent study, 93% of job recruiters recorded using LinkedIn to successfully fill positions in 2012.
We’ saved this tip for last because the first step to successful networking is creating a profile on LinkedIn! (Also, remember a few tips ago when we mentioned joining the Official UMD Alumni Association group? Create your profile, then join our group. It’s that easy!)