Your overall objective is to generate networking interviews, which will allow you to research career fields, obtain helpful advice on job seeking, and build connections to potential employers. Have a clear idea of what opportunity you seek and/or what information you want to get from the networking process. You'll make the best use of your time and the professional's time if you do some advance preparation. Do your occupational research using online resources to get a good idea of the nature of the work and industry, education and training required, employment outlook, and salary ranges. In addition, clarify what criteria are most important to you in a job. This will enable you to prepare a list of questions that are informed and relevant to your specific interests. Bring this list with you to the informational interview.
Davidson alumni are who students most frequently connect with during the networking process, but don't forget relatives, your parents' friends and work colleagues, your friends' parents, professors, work colleagues, neighbors, and church attendees. LinkedIn and Alenda Links are online resources that allow you to connect with Davidson alumni and other professionals. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn builds your network by connecting you with connections of your connections. Set up your profile on LinkedIn, join the Davidson College Network Group, and search for friends, family, and work contacts who have accounts. Alenda Links is Davidson College's internal networking system for alumni, students, and other members of the Davidson community.
A spreadsheet or online contact management application will help you keep your contacts in order for continued outreach during the networking process. Use the Center for Career Development Excel based networking contact management spreadsheet or a site such as Evernote.
You can do this by email or phone. Try to set up an in-person meeting. If this is not possible, schedule a phone conversation to pose your networking questions. Whether you set up the appointment by email or phone, it is important to to introduce yourself effectively. Your ability to offer a short but strong introduction, a.k.a. an "elevator speech" is key to kicking off a successful networking interaction.
This is your opportunity to make a new friend, gather some helpful information, and demonstrate just how capable and personable you are. Whether in person or by phone, be prompt for your meeting time and prepared with a list of questions. Listen to and take notes on the information given to you. Be ready to talk about yourself and the qualities or experiences you have that make you interested in learning more from your contact. Ask for the names of other people that he or she would recommend you talk to about your career interests. See Sample List of Questions to ask in a meeting.
Write a formal thank you note to your contact acknowledging the time and expertise he or she shared with you and what you learned from the experience. This is a critical and expected step in the networking process, and should not skipped. See sample.
Keep in touch with contacts by updating them on how you are doing. If you meet with a contact they referred you to, let them know how that meeting went. Ask follow up questions. Send a holiday card. Email them copies of anything you read that may be interesting to their position, with a personal note attached. By maintaining relationships with your contacts, you put yourself in a position to give and receive information on an ongoing basis. This is critical to the lifestyle of networking.
After meeting with a new connection, evaluate how things are going. Decide if you wish to change the information you seek and who would be the best person to contact next.