The best jobs go to the best job seekers - and often those who are successful in their job search have put their networking skills to good use!
A network is a group of people who can serve as a resources for your job search and ultimately your career. Some great networking contacts might include people you meet at social events, business meetings, job fairs and professional organizations; anyone who can help to provide you with career information and advice can support your personal network!
Develop your brand; starting with your 30 second commercial. A 30-Second Commercial is YOUR opportunity to market YOU. It's your unique response to the question, "Tell me about yourself." While each interview is different, you can count on this question being asked every time-it's the most common icebreaker used by interviewers. A polished response is a first sign of preparedness. Remember, first impressions are lasting, so you may only have one chance to get it right!
- Who am I?
- Why am I talking to you, and what is my objective?
- What is my past experience and what are my strengths?
- What are my past accomplishments?
- How did I achieve those accomplishments?
- What are my passions?
- How do my passions apply to this company/job?
Find common ground; connect and learn through mutual interests. Students are often hesitant of the networking process - but shouldn't be. Asking people for advice, assistance and information is a part of any job search. Keep in mind that your network often begins with people you already know - family, friends, professors, advisors, mentors, and co-workers. For most people, talking about their background, interests and expertise comes easy - beginning a conversation is often easier than you think.
Develop an plan of action:
- Personal Goal
- Overall Strategy
Become first in mind; reach out and make the most out of every interaction.
Informational interviewing is a conversation initiated to obtain facts or opinions, an opportunity to get an insider's view on a particular career or industry. It is not a job interview and can be used throughout your career, not just when you're thinking about a new position or a new line of work.
Why an Informational Interview?
- To gather information and reach tentative decisions about yourself and your options
- To gain new networking contacts in a different fields or organizations
- To research companies: Would I like working in this culture? Are there opportunities for advancement?
- For self‐assessment: Would I like this line of work? What would I need to do to be competitive in this field?
How to schedule an Informational Interview:
- Identify people to interview. Ask friends, family, faculty or employers for names of people who work in the profession you hope to enter
- When setting up the interview, introduce yourself and why you're calling. Indicate where you got the person's name. Ask if the person would be available for a short meeting to discuss his or her occupation. Explain a little about your own background and why their occupation appeals to you... but never give the impression that you're asking for a job
- Treat it as a business appointment and conduct yourself in a professional manner
- Write a thank‐you note afterwards. Stay in touch if you've followed up on their suggestions. Build a strong mentoring rapport; you may have developed a great networking contact!
What types of questions to ask:
- Can you tell me how you got to this position?
- What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?
- How do people break into this field? Do you have any suggestions for me?
- What are the types of jobs that exist where you work and in the industry in general?
- What does a typical career path look like in your industry?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing your company and your industry today?
- Are there any professional or trade associations with whom I should connect?
- What's unique or differentiating about your company?
- Be Prepared. Have your 30 Second Commercial and introduction (including a strong handshake and good eye contact) prepared in advance. Determine ahead of time what information you hope to gain from your contact and ask specific questions.
- Be Targeted. You may think to yourself "but I don't know anyone", however if you were to make a list of people you come in contact with on a daily basis - you'd quickly discover you know a lot of people! If you really want to expand the network of people you know, consider joining a club, organization, professional group or community meeting - get involved. You never know who you will meet and who they will know - their contact could lead you to your next job!
- Be Professional and Focused. Asking for networking advice or information is not the same as asking for a job! Your networking meetings are a source of information, contacts and advice. Focus on asking for one thing at a time and having a meaningful conversation.
- Be Referral-Centered and Proactive. The person you are networking with may refer you to someone else, be prepared to collect business cards, make new contacts and stay up-to-date with job leads, remember to thank the individuals for their time and information.
- Be Patient and Dedicated. Networking often does not provide immediate results, rather it provides you with one more resource you can use within the job search process. Be persistent in following up with your job leads, and stay in touch with the people you meet. Networking should be a part of your long term career plan.
Background: Tell me how you got started in this field. What was your education? What educational background or related experience might be helpful in entering this field?
Skills/Abilities: What skills/abilities are utilized in your field? What special training is recommended? What skills are especially important for someone in this position? What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
Problems: What is the largest single problem facing your staff (department) now? What problems does the industry as a whole have? What innovative things are being done to solve these problems?
Rewards: What do you find most rewarding about this work, besides money?
Potential: Where do you see yourself going in a few years? What are your long term goals? In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
Job market: How do people find out about your jobs? Are they advertised in the newspaper? On the web? By word-of-mouth? By the Human Resources Department?
Reliability: Is turnover high? How many have held this job in the last 5 years? Has your company experienced any downsizing, layoffs in the recent economic crisis? What products (or services) are in the development stage now? Do you have plans for expansion? What are your growth projections for next year?
The industry: What trends do you see for this industry in the next 3 to 5 years? What kind of future do you see for this organization? How much of your business is tied to (the economy, government spending, weather, supplies, etc.)?
Advice: How well-suited is my background for this field? When the time comes, how would I go about finding a job in this field? What experience, paid or volunteer would you recommend? What essentials should my resume contain?
Demand: What types of employers hire people in this line of work? Where are they located? What other career areas do you feel are related to your work?
Hiring Decisions: What are the most important factors used to hire people in this work (education, past experience, personality, special skills)? Who makes the hiring decisions for your department? Who supervises the boss? When I am ready to apply for a job, who should I contact?
Referral to other sources: Can you name a relevant trade journal or magazine for me to review regularly? What professional organizations might have information about this career area?
Referral to others: Based on our conversation today, what other types of people do you believe I should talk to? Can you name a few of these people? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
Do you have any other questions or advice?
- Do offer a firm handshake, make good eye contact and be prepared to introduce yourself.
- Do keep your resume up to date, and have it available to share with contacts who request it.
- Don't tell your networking contact your life story - instead focus on one or two pieces of information or questions at a time.
- Don't be shy - confidence is a quality that employers typically look for in the people they hire.
- Do take every opportunity to expand your network and utilize your networking skills as a valuable part of the job search process.
- The best jobs go to the best job seekers - and often those who are successful in their job search have put their networking skills to good use!