By Laura Myers, associate director of student career advising, serving students in the School of Communication and Bienen School of Music
Wherever your travels take you, be on the lookout for informal opportunities to network. Networking is all about learning from others, helping them get to know you, and following up to build relationships over time. Sounds easy enough, right? Here are some tips for networking over winter break:
1. Identify informal networking opportunities: Some of the best networking opportunities happen organically, when you don’t even realize you’re networking.
Airplanes: Flying somewhere? You never know who you may be sitting next to. Make small talk and see what you can learn about your travel buddy’s career.
Holiday Parties: Put down that hot chocolate and go introduce yourself to someone new! Don’t be afraid to take the initiative.
Family, Friends, & Neighbors: When catching up with family, friends, and neighbors, update them on your academic and career interests. Let them know what you’re studying, and what types of opportunities you find interesting.
2. Be curious and ask a lot of questions: This shows that you’re genuinely interested. People typically enjoy talking about themselves, and you can learn a lot from their responses.
Sample questions to ask:
What type of work do you do?
What is your background? What has your career path been?
What does a typical day or week look like? What are your major responsibilities?
What do you enjoy most about your job? What’s most challenging?
What sorts of internship or entry level opportunities exist in your industry?
What can I do while I’m at Northwestern to prepare myself for a career in the industry?
What do you wish you had known while you were still in college?
Is there anyone else you’d recommend that I connect with to learn more about the industry?
Questions for you to reflect on:
You should also be prepared to answer questions about yourself. Reflect on how your experiences both in and out of the classroom have shaped your academic and career interests. It’s OK if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, but you can still practice articulating your interests, skills, and goals.
3. Follow up and follow through: A key goal of networking is to build relationships over time, and one conversation isn’t enough. Be sure to follow up with anyone you meet or speak with. Ask for their business card or email so you can send them a thank you note, and consider connecting with them on LinkedIn. If you told them you’d email your resume, make sure you follow through. Periodically follow up with them by sending interesting articles you’ve read that they may enjoy, updates on your progress at Northwestern, holiday greetings, or additional questions.
4. Use your resources and leverage the alumni network: In addition to the people you’ll see over winter break, the Northwestern alumni network is a great resource for networking opportunities. Check out the alumni network through Our Northwestern, LinkedIn, and the Northwestern Mentorship Program. You can search for alumni who live in a particular city, work for a certain organization, or studied the same thing as you. One of the easiest ways to initiate a conversation and start building a relationship is to ask for an informational interview. Remember to ask some of the questions listed above in #2.
Your NCA career adviser is available now through December 21 to speak with you about networking or other career-related topics. Appointments are offered in person or via Skype/phone. To schedule an appointment, log into Handshake. NCA will be closed for winter recess from December 22 through January 1, before reopening on January 2. Let us know how we can help!