Networking is the process of utilizing connections between people and moving beyond the borders of your own network into other peoples’ networks. Networking can serve as a means to explore a field of interest, improve your job search, and open doors for potential job opportunities. The focus of networking should be to meet people in your field of interest and find out more about the jobs they do. While networking can be daunting, it is a skill that can be mastered with practice and by following some of the tips outlined below.
- Your network is larger than you realize. It includes family, friends, classmates, alumni, professors, past and present coworkers, professionals in the field of interest, personal services professionals (doctor, dentist, lawyer, banker, accountant, insurance agent), as well as neighbors.
- Make a goal to start networking with people that you already know and talk to them about your career aspirations.
- Rather than directly asking for a job, specifically ask whether they know of any companies or organizations doing the type of work that interests you. Do they know anyone in a similar area of work who would be willing to communicate with you?
- Don’t feel disillusioned if people seem unwilling to help. The key is to be resilient and continue networking, and remember, offer any help on your part as well. Givers gain most. At the very least, networking is valuable practice for improving your job interview skills.
- Once you identify a lead, contact that person via e-mail or phone. Break the ice by introducing yourself and let them know how you obtained their name. Ask them if they have time to answer a few questions or request an informational interview to get more detailed information and ask specific questions, such as career paths within the company.
- Prepare and practice an introductory script about yourself, also called an elevator speech, which summarizes your skills, experience, and goals. You can also use this at career fairs or at any networking opportunity.
- Know your career goals and be ready to state them. Practice doing this so that you sound confident and self-assured.
- Prepare questions in advance about the company and career path that you are pursuing. Try asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a mere Yes or No. This way the conversation is more likely to have less awkward pauses, could lead to further discussion and may flow more smoothly. Open-ended questions could start with "What do you think of…?", "What is your opinion about…?"
- Research the field so you can avoid asking questions for which you can find answers elsewhere, especially on The Internet.
- While networking, always be polite and respectful. Don’t be the one who does all the talking. Listening is a valuable skill that can be very useful during such a meeting.
- Always be positive and enthusiastic so that you leave a good impression.
- Leave your networking meeting with names of 3 or more contacts or at least, a future promise of information about any relevant contacts. If you need to follow up, wait a few days before sending an e-mail.
- Follow up with a thank you e-mail or letter, thanking the person for his or her time and say that the meeting was helpful for you.
- If you meet any referrals, send an update e-mail to the original contact and thank him or her again.
- Last but not least, frequently analyze your networking efforts so you can keep track of what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Keep improvising. The more you network, the more creative you will become on how to network effectively.
The interviewing process can be unpleasant. There is no secret behind interviewing well – it is merely an anticipation of questions and practice of answers, a thorough understanding of yourself and your skills, and how confidently and professionally you present yourself. While there is no way of knowing exactly which questions you will be asked, you can certainly do company research beforehand, prepare for common questions, and practice your answers so that you sound confident and attractive. While it seems like the interview is about you, you should always think that the interview is about the company. Every answer you give should be tailored, such that it is clear in the mind of the interviewer what skills you are bringing to the table – for that particular job.
Tips to help make the interviewing process smooth
- Arrive early so that you have time to relax and organize your thoughts.
- Be professional at all times.
- First impressions are critical. Make sure you dress well, sit up straight, smile to reflect a positive attitude, and make appropriate eye contact.
- You can be judged on your social and interpersonal skills so be ready for some upbeat small talk as well. Sound like you care even if you don’t.
- Try avoiding use of unnecessary sentence fillers such as "like" & "uhmmm."
- Don’t talk either too softly or too loudly.
- Do the company research beforehand
(finance.yahoo.com www.hoovers.com, etc).
- Show genuine enthusiasm for the position by finding out about the company and stating specifically what you could offer.
- Use company/field language to sound professional.
- If possible, talk to other employees beforehand (perhaps on LinkedIn). Use what they say to tell the interviewer about how it seems that the environment matches your personality.
- Make sure you spell out your goals when they ask you why you are interested in the position. Remember that employers seek people with motivation, direction, and purpose.
- Know your resume inside-out. Have interesting stories and examples of leadership, conflict resolution, project management, time management, etc for each relevant position listed on your resume. Stories increase the chance that interviewers will remember you when comparing you with other candidates.
- Expect difficult questions and prepare answers about any tough situations in your background and if possible, put a positive spin on it. For example, if you were laid off, do not badmouth your boss. Think of neutral sounding answers such as "I was let go because the company was downsizing or changing direction, and I took advantage of this by thinking of new opportunities."
- Have questions ready for the interviewer as well. Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered by a mere "Yes" or "No" and show that you have done your research on the company.
- Don’t ask questions for which you can find answers on the Internet easily.
- Always stay cool and think for few seconds before you speak. This is particularly important if the interviewer is asking you stressful questions.