Contributed by Ben Bradley ’08, member of the Alumni Council Career and Employment Services Committee.
When on a college campus, occasionally you meet that networking machine—the apparently able-to-talk-to-anyone student. Seeing these individuals who have developed the art of networking can be both mesmerizing and intimidating. But don’t be put off by that. Networking, like any other skill, takes time and practice to develop. Those networking fanatics have simply had a bit of a head start in practicing how to connect in social settings.
Luckily, everyone—know it or not—has inner circles of people where informational interviews can be performed and the stress of “networking” is drastically reduced. By meeting with individuals from these groups, the pressure to create an amazing first impression is eliminated (because more often than not, you’ve already met them) which allows you to enhance your networking skills in a nonthreatening environment. Here are a few inner-circle networking groups to consider meeting with as a first step in developing your skills.
Puget Sound Employees – in the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network!
Have you run a search in the ASK Network with the University of Puget Sound as the employer? There are 26 members from every imaginable campus department. These are individuals who not only work at the college you attend, but are fellow alums who have signed up saying, “Please contact me if you want to chat about anything career-related.” It doesn’t get much easier than this to find someone to work with developing your networking skills.
Do you have a part-time, full-time, or summer job? When I interned during undergrad, I set a goal to meet with 1 person within the organization every week for an informational interview. I quickly realized, by how promptly my emails or phone call inquiries were returned, that people were excited to see that someone had an interest in what they were doing. What I realized was, telling someone you are interested in what they do is the ultimate form of flattery. You’ll probably make their day by reaching out to them.
Do you have a coffee shop you regularly attend? Maybe you head to the Met every Saturday night and see the same store manager with whom you are now on a first name basis? Odds are their current role is not their first job, and you might be surprised to hear how they got to owning that coffee shop or managing a store that does millions in revenue a year. You have already built the rapport with this individual by supporting their institution. They will more than likely be happy to find a time to chat with you about their career path (you might even get a free coffee or pastry out of it!).
Friends of your parents
Your parents know people. In fact, they probably know people doing work that might interest you. And, I bet your parents would love to help connect you with people they know – they are being helpful with your career development. Next time you talk with your parents (or an aunt, friend of the family, whoever), let them know that you’re looking to talk with people working in xx field and ask them if they have any contacts. You may be surprised at who they know.
Remember, this is a process that needs to be practiced. But each informational interview you conduct will be easier than the last. Just start where you are!
Not surprisingly, Ben is a Networking Machine. Read his LinkedIn Success Story.
© 2010 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Kris Hay