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Why Network?

January 26, 2011

Everyone knows networking is important, but how do you become a good networker? Learning how to build and create connections and relationships is key to your career development. No matter what stage you are at—looking for an internship, getting your first job or changing your career path—networking can help you. Networking results in 60% to 80% of all job offers and can help you learn about potential job opportunities and specific organizations and industries. Here are a few tips for becoming a better networker:

Brainstorm for contacts: Think of everyone and don’t limit yourself. Suggestions include: family friends, relatives, neighbors, professors, journalists, alumni, former employers or co-workers, chamber of commerce and members of professional organizations. Don’t be afraid to meet new people; the contact that has no obvious connection to what you want to do may connect you to someone that does.

Where to network: Various places offer a great way to find those connections. Try local alumni associations, conventions, class reunions, club meetings, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities and business conferences.

Elevator speech: The first question someone asks is often “what do you do?” Be prepared and know how you want a potential professional contact to see you. Make sure it’s not to long—just quick facts about who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for—will open the door to possibilities.

Make it easy: Explain to current or potential contacts what you specifically want and make it as easy as possible for them to help you. Always carry your business card.

Be genuine: Networking is about building trust and relationships and everyone knows when someone is “schmoozing” them. Be genuine and authentic in your interactions and you will leave a lasting impression.

Follow up: After an event, send a thank you card to each person that you had direct contact with. Many people fail to follow up and doing so can make you stand out. Tell your contact how much he or she helped you, and refer to particularly helpful, specific advice. Additionally, follow through on referrals you are given quickly and effectively.

Stay in touch: Part of networking is letting people know what you’re up to, so don’t be afraid to stay on their radar. But, it’s important to do so without imposing or being invasive. Don’t be afraid to check in quarterly or every six months and it might help to create a calendar to keep track.

Stay organized: Keep track of your contacts, including contacts’ names, addresses, phone numbers, companies, job titles, how you met them and conversations you’ve had with them.

Good networkers are flexible people who approach networking with an open mind and endless possibilities. Be open and creative to all ideas and potential contacts, but be prepared. You never know who will be standing next to you—so don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

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