Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Networking = Necessary Pain

Networking. Also known as schmoozing, chit-chatting, making connections...no matter what you call it, for many students (and non-students) it's intimidating. And even worse, it's necessary when it comes to an internship or job search.

What is networking?
Networking is "building relationships based on trust."
(Black Enterprise Guide to Building your Career)

Schmoozing is "noticing people, connecting with them, keeping in touch with them – and benefiting from relationships with them … connecting with people in a mutually productive and pleasurable way."
(Vault Guide to Schmoozing)

Networking is "a reciprocal process that is mutually beneficial, where we share leads, ideas, and information [that] enhances our personal and professional lives and involves follow-up behaviors that create ongoing connections." (How to Work a Room)

And why, you ask, do I have to do this? Why do I have to put myself through the pain of approaching complete strangers, making awkward conversation with them, and then promising to follow up for more awkward conversation in the future?

Many, many jobs are never found on job lists. Even in the case of a posted job listing, it will be to your advantage to know people in the organization – if nothing else, this will make you a better-prepared candidate. Furthermore, networking has many advantages that can pay off for you in the long-term. Networking/schmoozing is a critical tool in your "career tool chest."

Ok, so if you have to do it, then you should learn to do it well. And the good news is that networking, like many things in life, is something that can be learned, practiced and perfected.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Check out the CAPS' Networking Handout. It features more advice and discussion about networking and how to start building your network (hint: don't be afraid to ask your parents, your parents' friends, or your friends' parents for help).
2. Consider this advice from author and blogger Lindsey Pollack: "Over the years I’ve developed a plan to take the guess work out of follow-up. It’s super simple and works every time. When I meet someone I’d like to connect with again, I simply say, 'I’ve really enjoyed meeting you, and I’d like to keep in touch. What’s the best method to reach you?'" As Pollack explains, this tactic gives the person you're speaking with the opportunity to provide a phone number or email address - or to politely tell you that they're too busy to be a part of your network right now.
3. Make an appointment with a CAPS' staff member or practice interviewer by calling (773) 702-704o. Let the person that you meet with know that you'd like to start building your career network - and you need some help starting out.

Do you have a networking horror story or victory tale? Post the best and worst of your networking outcomes here.

1 comment:

Lindsey Pollak said...

Thank you for linking to my post. I would add to your great advice that networking is even more important in a weakening economy. With more competition for jobs, "who you know" can be the deciding factor in finding work.

Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

Lindsey Pollak