Having an arsenal of soft skills under your belt is essential as you venture into the workforce. One of those skills that is not highlighted enough is networking. Networking is the act of forming and maintaining relationships with people—especially those in the same industry or position as you are. This is especially important in the professional world, as your network can lead you to new opportunities, people, and knowledge. Networking can occur either in-person at conferences or events, or online through professional platforms like LinkedIn. Many college campuses often host networking nights with alumni, allowing you to connect with people who were once in your shoes. By building a strong professional network, you are creating a support system that can help guide you through your career development and achieve your career goals.
There are a few nuances when it comes to networking, as your approach will slightly differ depending on whether your intention is to get a job or simply learn from the person you are interested in connecting with.
How to Network at a Job Fair
Job fairs aim to connect employers with job seekers, so networking at these events will be to explore different companies and job opportunities to find out which ones you are interested in. Here are a few tips to help you navigate networking at a job fair:
- Research the companies/professionals in attendance: To be productive with your time at the fair, look at the list of attendees beforehand. It might even be helpful to visit different companies’ sites or professionals’ LinkedIn pages to see if anything interests you. From there, determine which companies or professionals you wish to speak to.
- Prepare your resume and elevator pitch: Have your resume on hand, as some employers will be accepting resumes for open positions they have. It is also good practice to have your elevator pitch ready to present as you speak with different companies.
- Ask for contact information: Be respectful when asking someone for their contact information—which can include either their email or phone number. Some events might provide a comprehensive list of contacts after, and professionals might even pass out business cards there.
- Send a thank you email: Follow up with an email and thank the person you spoke with for their time. If there was a potential job opening that was discussed, you can ask for more information about it and express your interest in the role. Include things that were mentioned in the conversation, as that will make it more likely for the person to remember you.
How to Schedule a Networking Call
Networking does not always need to be in-person. Here is how to schedule a networking call:
- Determine who you want to reach out to: Figuring out your target personas will help you narrow your search. If you are unsure of where to start, search a company name or job title on LinkedIn and filter for alumni from your school. This will make the connection easier, as your school provides a common ground for the beginning of a conversation.
- Contact them with an introductory message: Your first message should introduce yourself and explain why you are reaching out to them for a call. Personalize the message to the person you are reaching out to. Here are some examples of how to reach out to someone on LinkedIn.
- Suggest a few times to meet: The professionals you are reaching out to are busy with their own work schedules, so it is best to provide your availability up front. This removes the need for any back and forth discussion about each person’s availability, as well as allows them the freedom to choose what works best for their schedules.
- Confirm the time and date of the call: To avoid any confusion or miscommunication, make sure to confirm the agreed upon date and time of the call. Send a virtual invite if the meeting is through a video platform. If the meeting is further away, send a reminder the week of.
- Conduct the call: Unless otherwise specified, you will be the one making the call. Make sure to call them at the time you both had previously confirmed. If you are using a video platform, make sure to arrive a few minutes early to check that everything is working correctly.
What to Do During a Networking Call
Informational networking calls are more geared towards providing information and advice rather than job searching. That’s not to say that these calls cannot lead to potential job opportunities, as referrals can definitely come from these connections—but it’s crucial to first build a rapport with someone before asking for a favor. Here are 5 tips on what to do during a networking call:
- Come prepared and ask questions: Remember that these people are taking time out of their workday to have a conversation with you. It is important to do your due diligence to understand the professional’s background; this will help you determine what questions to ask them. For instance, if they are in a position you hope to have in the future, the conversation can center around their journey and the steps they took to get there.
- Drive the conversation: Since you asked for the meeting, it is your responsibility to take control of where the conversation goes. The beginning of the call can bring about bouts of awkwardness, so start off strong by thanking them for taking the call and quickly introducing yourself. From there, you can ask for their background and later segue into the questions you prepared.
- Practice active listening: Let the other person speak for the majority of the conversation. You are there to ask questions and learn from them
- Send a thank you email: These people were not obligated to hop on a call with you, but they did so because they wanted to help you. Sending a thank you email can demonstrate your appreciation for the insight they provided and help establish that relationship.
- Stay in touch: The power of networking comes from building upon that first meeting. Keep a list of the different contacts you have and make a plan to reach out periodically. Ideas of staying in touch include: interacting with their LinkedIn posts, sending holiday messages, sending content that would be of interest to them, etc.
How Student Hires Can Help
Student Hires aims to educate students in areas related to career development. We provide one-of-a-kind programs for students to explore different careers and gain relevant experience before transitioning into entry-level roles. Our workforce development programs prepare students for future careers in a variety of Career Technical Education sectors.
Job Fair Blog Series
Student Hires will be holding a resume review booth at the Riverside Job Fair on Tuesday, January 31. The fair will be from 4:30 – 7:30pm at the Galleria at Tyler. Come join us there!
Leading up to the job fair, we will be publishing a new article each week in our Job Fair Blog Series. Below are the articles:
- 5 Tips for Crafting the Perfect Resume
- Elevator Pitches: Everything Students Should Know
- Dress for Success: 4 Tips On How to Dress for a Job Interview
- Networking 101: Tips on How to Build Your Professional Network
- The Power of LinkedIn: 6 Tips on Building a Good LinkedIn Profile
- Ace Any Job Interview With These 6 Tips
- 5 Important Things To Do After a Job Fair
As you advance in your career, having a strong professional network will be to your advantage. Knowing the proper networking etiquette is important—which means respecting people’s time and energy. Start building out your network now and in a few years, you’ll be the one people will reach out to!