Nowadays, any job or internship application is practically pointless without networking for it as well. However, networking is an intimidating word and it’s difficult to know how to get started.
Whether you’re a high school student or late in your career, introvert or extrovert, looking for a long-term job or summer internship, networking will do wonders for helping you achieve what you want career-wise. These are our 12 tips to help you get started with networking.
1. Make a LinkedIn account
LinkedIn has been called the Facebook for careers, and it’s the best resource out there for getting started with networking. I’ve done an article specifically on LinkedIn hacks you should be doing if you want to enhance your profile. However, by just making a LinkedIn account, you’re already one step ahead of most of your peers and easing your way into networking.
2. Connect with school alumni
Though you may not feel like you have a network, alumni from your high school and university are some of your best resources for landing your dream job. Start on LinkedIn by connecting with alumni from your school that work in your desired job industry.
You can do this by sending them a message letting them know who you are and mentioning that you’re a fellow alum, and this will begin important professional relationships vital for networking.
3. Get to know friends’ parents
Along with school alumni, your friends’ parents are also a surprisingly useful resource for job opportunities, particularly summer internships. You may not know any lawyers personally, but your best friend’s mum may work in a law firm that would love to host you for the summer.
If you know that your friends’ parents have a career you admire, talk to your friend and see if it would be okay that you have a coffee with their mum or dad to talk about careers.
4. Know what you want
One of the most important things you can do while networking is narrowing down exactly what it is you want. What are you hoping to get out of networking?
For example, figure out if you’re looking for a temporary job position, long-term job, part-time work, or internship. Would you be willing to work remotely? Where are you basing your search? If you’re looking for an internship, does it have to be paid or would you take on an unpaid internship? What industry do you want to be working in? What is your long-term career goal?
These questions may be overwhelming, but by developing this direction in your career search, you will not only improve your odds of landing a dream opportunity but you will also be networking more efficiently by asking those in your network the right questions.
5. Don’t pass up networking events
Most university campuses and large businesses host networking events for those people who are looking for career opportunities, and these are by far your best resource for networking because that’s exactly what they’re designed for!
Be sure to keep up with society and school networking events on campus and attend as many as possible. When you’re there, be sure to introduce yourself, act professional, ask questions about others’ experience in the industry, and see if you can get email addresses, phone numbers, or connect on LinkedIn so that these conversations don’t stop at the networking event.
6. Slide into the DMs, but offer alternatives
When you’re sending a blind invite on LinkedIn (meaning you’ve never spoken to the person you’re networking with before), it’s important to introduce yourself in the first communication and share why you want to connect with them, but you should also offer your email address and phone number if you’re connecting on LinkedIn.
While some people use LinkedIn religiously, many industry professionals rarely check their LinkedIn inbox, so it’s important to offer other means of communication and then further your conversation in whatever way is easiest for them.
7. Ask questions about their experience
As you begin conversations with those in your network, start by asking them questions about their own experience so that you can get a feel for what it’s like to work in their industry as well as learning how they got started so you can follow in their footsteps.
While it can be intimidating to have these conversations and be professional, remember that people love to talk about themselves, so asking them questions about their experience is a great way to tip your toes into networking and break the ice without putting the pressure on yourself.
8. Request a coffee or Skype
While email or LinkedIn conversations are great, meeting in person or over the phone will help you stand out from the crowd while networking and further these professional relationships. As you begin talking with people in your network, ask them if they would like to talk with you briefly about their career and any advice they have for you.
Meeting for a coffee is best if you live nearby, but Skype works just as well if that isn’t possible. While this is nerve-racking, keep in mind that they will be doing most of the talking, and it isn’t a job interview! Chances are they want to help you advance in the industry since they have been in your shoes, so don’t be nervous. Just act professional and prepare questions beforehand and it will go well.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral
Many job or internship applications aren’t complete without a referral from someone who works at that company recommending you for the position, and often companies will give their employees benefits if they refer someone to their company and that person gets hired. Therefore, it’s usually in the best interest of people who work at the company you’re applying to refer you.
After you’ve networked with someone and you feel they’ve gotten to know you, reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to refer you for the position you’re applying for. This is the most intimidating part of networking for most people, but keep in mind that a referral is mutually beneficial for both of you, and the worst thing they can do is say no, so try not to be nervous and just go for it!
10. Research who you’re networking with
Another important step when networking is research. While you don’t want to be a stalker, it’s important to get to know who you’re networking with so you can ask the right questions. For example, if you glance over their resume on LinkedIn, you can ask them questions about how they landed their internship at X company, or what their job entails at Y company.
Research can also help you see what you two have in common, furthering the conversation and your professional relationship. If you both grew up in the same hometown or played the same college sport, these are great talking points and will help you stand out from others in their network.
11. Maintain professional relationships
After establishing professional relationships, it’s important to maintain them and keep in touch. This not only benefits their image of you, but it will also help you down the line if you ever need a referral from them or something similar.
Maintaining these relationships is as simple as congratulating them on LinkedIn for starting a new job, or sending them an email once a year to see how they’re doing, or wishing them a happy birthday. Think of this as maintaining old friendships and keeping in touch.
12. Be confident
Most importantly, when you’re networking the best thing you can do is be confident in your interactions and with your presence. You want to appear approachable and professional to those in your network, and confidence is key for making this happen. You should radiate confidence in the way you dress, how you speak, the questions you ask, and the intentions you set, and this will help move you forward in your industry and network with ease.