Networking - Career Guide Series - Part Four

One important ingredient for a successful career is Networking. With Networking you will be able to broaden your horizon in the job market. These and many more are what we are going to be discussing in this post in continuation of our comprehensive career guide series. In the last part of the series we discussed how to search and apply for a job. Today we would be exploring the meaning and various strategies in networking.


What is Networking?

Networking is one of the features and of great tool in job search. Networking is the process of building relationships and making connections to others who may provide you with advice, information, or further contacts. The members of your network will enhance your ability to make informed career decisions and may provide opportunities that you may not get otherwise. Your network can include individuals or groups.

Advantages of Networking

Some of the advantages of Networking include:
  1. People like helping the friend of a friend
  2. It’s a non-threatening interaction for everyone involved
  3. A referral from a trusted contact starts the conversation going
  4. Makes it comfortable to contact people you need because of your mutual friend Networking helps you…
  5. Gain information about a discipline, firm, or industry (especially about changes)
  6. Narrow your choices for careers, job search, internships
  7. Meet new and interesting people
  8. Re-establish contact with people you already know
  9. Connect with people who can assist and support your career activities
There are certain expectations when networking, and the golden rule is – reciprocate! Never ask for a job directly. Networking is first and foremost about gaining information not asking for work.

How do I build a Career Network?

There are many mediums of career networking ranging from social and digital media, informational interviews, school friends and relatives to mail contacts
  • Career sites (e.g. LinkedIn): Create or update a LinkedIn profile or other appropriate professional career site profile. Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups such as Industry or Alumni associations (see below for information on LinkedIn).
  •  Connect: Add your connections to others (consider relatives, friends, social contacts, former work colleagues, bosses, contacts met at conferences and seminars, etc.). Consider making new connections in areas where you are lacking information or mentors.
  •  Informational Interviews: Reach out to your connections and tell them what you are up to and what your interests are. Ask them appropriate questions (see next page regarding Informational Interviewing).
  •  Other social media: Review your social media sites for appropriate content. Make sure private items are private, or remove them entirely (see page 22 for further information).
  •  Resume: Keep your resume up-to-date and ready to send (see page 29).
  •  Elevator pitch: Prepare and practice a 30-60 second “elevator pitch” that succinctly describes who you are and what you are seeking (see page 28).
  •  Research: Find out about companies of interest; try to learn the name of hiring managers based on a recommendation from your network. Attend company presentations.
  •  Build: Build relationships steadily over time.
  •  Record: Create a record of all contacts made for future reference.
The most important thing to remember about managing your job search is having a strong network of people who believe in you. This is not developed at the time that you are in need. Always remember that part of networking is being willing to give back generously to others in your network. The more you give, the more you will get when you need it.

Make the most of your network and the community events that are available in your area. It will always be the preference of the hiring manager to recruit someone who is known to them. Give yourself the advantage by being a person to them rather than a CV.

Informational Interviews

Informational interviewing is a low-pressure way to gather career information from people who are already working in occupations, organizations, or geographic locations you are interested in. Both the content of the information, and the process of gathering it will help you to refine your career goals and possibly discover new ones.

Keep a document with a record of the people with whom you have interviewed, the dates of the meeting, what was discussed, and names of additional contacts. The people you meet are potential members of your professional network.

1. Identify Professionals to Interview: Start by asking people you already know.
  • Family, friends, neighbors, professors, or past coworkers may work in the career you want to explore.
  • The MIT Alumni Directory, LinkedIn, and professional associations are other places to find people who are working in your field of interest.
2. Connect with Contacts: You can request to set up meeting by email, in person, via social networking sites like LinkedIn, or on the phone.
  • Introduce yourself and explain how you got their name.
  • Tell them you are researching the ----- field and seeking advice (Remember, the purpose of informational interviewing is not to ask for a job or internship).
  • Request a 20-30 minute meeting at their worksite if possible. Meeting at a local coffee shop, or via phone or skype are good alternatives.
  • Be clear, concise, and courteous in your communication.
3. Prepare for Your Meeting: Now it’s time to prepare for your meeting just as you would for an actual job interview.
  • Conduct preliminary research on the organization. Knowing some specifics about the occupation and the company will help you to create targeted questions, and show your enthusiasm and professionalism.
  • Develop and bring a list of open-ended questions that will help you evaluate if the career is a fit for you.
  • It’s important to clarify your objectives before the meeting to determine what information you are seeking. Your goals will change along a continuum from general career research to specific job research advice.
4. Conduct the Interview. Informational Interviews are more casual than job interviews, but you should still make a positive professional impression. On the day of the interview:
  • Arrive early, especially if you are meeting in a public place such as a coffee shop. This will ensure you are able to find a place to sit.
  • You are leading the interview. Start by thanking the individual for his or her time
  • Monitor the time and end the interview within the specified time.
  • Show gratitude after the interview by sending a thank you email or note within 24 hours.
5. Evaluate the Information Gathered: Take a moment to reflect on the following:
  • What did you like? What positive impressions do you now have about this area of work?
  • Did you discover any new concerns about or advantages of the occupation?
  • How does this information help you to clarify your own career objectives? Did you discover another occupation you might want to learn about?
  • What are your next steps? With whom else do you plan to talk? (Beware of relying too heavily on the views or advice of only one or two people).

Informational Interviews Suggested Questions

Job Description
  • What are your major job responsibilities? If possible, describe a typical work day or work week.
  • What aspects of your job do you enjoy most/least?
  • How is your time divided between working with people, data, and things?
Career Path
  • How did you get into this field? Would you describe your career path?
  • What are the typical entry-level jobs in this field? What are some possible career paths?
  • How do most people enter this field?
Work Environment
  • How would you describe your work environment?
  • How much flexibility are you permitted in your job? How much autonomy do you have
  • How much work do you take home? How many hours do you work each week?
  • Would a geographic move affect your career? If so, why?
  • What are your biggest challenges or problems you have encountered?
  • What are the challenges facing this industry today?
  • Who do you consider to be the leaders in this industry? How do you view the current state of the industry?
  • What changes do you see occurring in this field? Will the type and number of jobs change significantly over the next 10 years? What, if any, will be the effect of changing technology on the field?
  • What do you wish you had known before you entered this field? What is the best advice you were given when entering the field?
  • What are the minimum qualifications a person needs to enter this field?
  • Are there any professional groups in the field that you recommend I join?
  • Where might I find job descriptions and other specifications for some of the positions in this field?
  • Do you have any suggestions on my job search strategy?
  • What is the size and structure of your organization? What geographic locations do you have offices?
  • How does the work of your group/division/office fit into the work of the overall organization?
  • What is the average length of time employees stay with the organization?
  • What type of formal on the job training is provided? General
  • Are there any questions I should have asked but did not?
  • Do you mind if I stay in touch with you regarding my career search?
  • Is there anyone else in the field with whom you would suggest I speak?
Now that we are into building relationships and making connections through our career networking strategies, another ingredient for a successful career networking is Social Media and Digital Networking. With Social Media and Digital Networking you will be able to broaden your horizon in the online job market. These and many more are what we are going to be discussing in our next post in the Career Guide Series and it will focus on the intricacies of Social Media and Digital Networking.

Feel free to make your contributions, observations or ask questions on this topic of Networking or any part of our Career Guide Series using the comment form below and we will be more than happy to add to our data base of knowledge because nobody knows it all.

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