By Taylor Kinn, Assistant Director, Student Career Advising, serving students enrolled in the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions Minor
In simplified, less intimidating terms, networking is about building and maintaining relationships. Think of your network as your community helping you to take the next step on your career journey. Whether you are just beginning to create connections, or you feel you have identified a target industry and have strong contacts, it is important to nurture these relationships. Here are a few considerations to help you stay in touch with and make the most of your network:
You can choose your network.
Whether you planned a networking interaction or came upon it organically, take time to reflect on how it went. You will not connect with everyone in the same way, and that is okay. If the contact seems very interested in helping you, or you are excited to speak with them again, they may be someone you want to stay in touch with in the future. If the opposite is true or you found little in common, your thank you note may be the last time you intentionally connect. It is difficult to maintain meaningful relationships with everyone you meet, so it is a good idea to be strategic about which relationships you focus on building.
Relationships are two-sided.
Networking is not all about taking from the connections you make. Those in your network also want to learn from and about you. While as a student it may feel as though you don’t have much to offer a professional, your insights can be valuable. Having questions to ask is not the only reason to connect – you may feel you hit a point where you have nothing left to ask a contact. Other reasons to reach out could be to send: good luck/congratulatory messages; a “thank you” for advice given; a request to meet in person; a note about hoping to see them at a campus event; follow up to helping them with a project or something else discussed; seasonal or holiday greetings; suggested articles or books; or an update on your progress or where you have secured a position.
Get to know your network.
As mentioned above, there are many ways and reasons to connect with your network. Remembering details they share about their family, interests and overall life outside of work can be just as beneficial as the career insights shared. Paying attention shows you care about them. While your interactions will likely begin with a career focus, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of building a more personal connection. Connecting on a more personal level through common hobbies or other similar experiences is another way for them to remember you. Taking notes during (if possible) or after your conversations will help you remember what was discussed.
Every relationship is unique.
There is no magical formula when it comes to the number of times or methods used to contact those in your network. You will connect with each person in a different way and for different reasons. Keep track of your network including what was discussed and frequency of conversations so you can be reminded of when to check in and learn the tone of each relationship.
I wish you the best as you start or continue to build your community! Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your career adviser via Handshake for support in navigating the networking process.