In deliberately establishing relationships, maximize your efforts by organizing your approach. Five specific areas in which you can organize your efforts include reviewing your self-assessment, reviewing your research on job sites and organizations, deciding who you want to talk to, keeping track of all your efforts, and creating your self-promotion tools.
Review Your Self-Assessment
Your self-assessment is as important a tool in preparing to network as it has been in other aspects of your job search. You have carefully evaluated your personal traits, personal values, economic needs, longer-term goals, skill base, preferred skills, and underdeveloped skills. During the networking process you will be called upon to communicate what you know about yourself and relate it to the information or job you seek. Be sure to review the exercises that you completed in the self-assessment section of this book in preparation for networking. We’ve explained that you need to assess which skills you have acquired from your major that are of general value to an employer; be ready to express those in ways he or she can appreciate as useful in the organizations.
Review Research on Job Sites and Organizations
In addition, individuals assisting you will expect that you’ll have at least some background information on the occupation or industry of interest to you. Refer to the appropriate sections of this book and other relevant publications
to acquire the background information necessary for effective networking. They’ll explain how to identify not only the job titles that might be of interest to you but also which kinds of organizations employ people to do that job. You will develop some sense of working conditions and expectations about duties and responsibilities—all of which will be of help in your networking interviews.
Decide Whom You Want to Talk To
Networking cannot begin until you decide who you want to talk to and, in general, what type of information you hope to gain from your contacts. Once you know this, it’s time to begin developing a list of contacts. Five useful sources for locating contacts are described here.
College Alumni Network. Most colleges and universities have created a formal network of alumni and friends of the institution who are particularly interested in helping currently enrolled students and graduates of their alma mater gain employment-related information.
It is usually a simple process to make use of an alumni network. Visit your college’s website and locate the alumni office and/or your career center. Either or both sites will have information about your school’s alumni network. You’ll be provided with information on shadowing experiences, geographic information, or those alumni offering job referrals. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to phone or e-mail your career center and ask what they can do to help you connect with an alum.
Alumni networkers may provide some combination of the following services: day-long shadowing experiences, telephone interviews, in-person interviews, information on relocating to given geographic areas, internship information, suggestions on graduate school study, and job vacancy notices.
Present and Former Supervisors. If you believe you are on good terms with present or former job supervisors, they may be an excellent resource for providing information or directing you to appropriate resources that would have information related to your current interests and needs. Additionally, these supervisors probably belong to professional organizations that they might be willing to utilize to get information for you.
Employers in Your Area. Although you may be interested in working in a geographic location different from the one where you currently reside, don’t overlook the value of the knowledge and contacts those around you are able to provide. Use the local telephone directory and newspaper to identify the types of organizations you are thinking of working for or professionals who have the kinds of jobs you are interested in. Recently, a call made to a local hospital’s financial administrator for information on working in health-care financial administration yielded more pertinent information on training seminars, regional professional organizations, and potential employment sites than a national organization was willing to provide.
Employers in Geographic Areas Where You Hope to Work. If you are thinking about relocating, identifying prospective employers or informational contacts in the new location will be critical to your success. Here are some tips for online searching. First, use a “metasearch” engine to get the most out of your search. Metasearch engines combine several engines into one powerful tool. We frequently use dogpile.com and metasearch.com for this purpose. Try using the city and state as your keywords in a search. New Haven, Connecticut will bring you to the city’s website with links to the cham ber of commerce, member businesses, and other valuable resources. By using looksmart.com you can locate newspapers in any area, and they, too, can provide valuable insight before you relocate. Of course, both dogpile and metasearch can lead you to yellow and white page directories in areas you are considering.
Professional Associations and Organizations. Professional associations and organizations can provide valuable information in several areas: career paths that you might not have considered, qualifications relating to those career choices, publications that list current job openings, and workshops or seminars that will enhance your professional knowledge and skills. They can also be excellent sources for background information on given industries: their health, current problems, and future challenges.
There are several excellent resources available to help you locate professional associations and organizations that would have information to meet your needs. Two especially useful publications are the Encyclopedia of Associations
and National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States.
Keep Track of All Your Efforts
It can be difficult, almost impossible, to remember all the details related to each contact you make during the networking process, so you will want to develop a record-keeping system that works for you. Formalize this process
by using your computer to keep a record of the people and organizations you want to contact. You can simply record the contact’s name, address, and telephone number, and what information you hope to gain.
You could record this as a simple Word document and you could still use the “Find” function if you were trying to locate some data and could only recall the firm’s name or the contact’s name. If you’re comfortable with database
management and you have some database software on your computer, then you can put information at your fingertips even if you have only the zip code! The point here is not technological sophistication but good record keeping.
Once you have created this initial list, it will be helpful to keep more detailed information as you begin to actually make the contacts. Those details should include complete contact information, the date and content of each contact, names and information for additional networkers, and required follow-up. Don’t forget to send a letter thanking your contact for his or her time! Your contact will appreciate your recall of details of your meetings and conversations, and the information will help you to focus your networking efforts.
Create Your Self-Promotion Tools
There are two types of promotional tools that are used in the networking process. The first is a résumé and cover letter, and the second is a one-minute “infomercial,” which may be given over the telephone or in person.
Techniques for writing an effective résumé and cover letter are discussed. Once you have reviewed that material and prepared these important documents, you will have created one of your self-promotion tools.
The one-minute infomercial will demand that you begin tying your interests, abilities, and skills to the people or organizations you want to network with. Think about your goal for making the contact to help you understand what you should say about yourself. You should be able to express yourself easily and convincingly. If, for example, you are contacting an alumnus of your institution to obtain the names of possible employment sites in a distant city, be prepared to discuss why you are interested in moving to that location, the types of jobs you are interested in, and the skills and abilities you possess that will make you a qualified candidate.
To create a meaningful one-minute infomercial, write it out, practice it as if it will be a spoken presentation, rewrite it, and practice it again if necessary until expressing yourself comes easily and is convincing.
Here’s a simplified example of an infomercial for use over the telephone:
Hello, Dr. Frank? My name is Jordan Stoll and I am a recent graduate of the University of Michigan. I was a biomedical engineering major and I possess many of the skills that are valued in the healthcare industry, including analytical and research skills, as well as community outreach experience.
I know you’re extremely busy, so I’ll get to the point. I’m calling today because I would like to gather more information about the work biomedical engineers do in the healthcare field to make sure that I’m making the best career choice for me. I’m hoping you’ll have some time to sit down with me for about half an hour and discuss your perspective on biomedical engineeering careers. Would you be willing to do that for me?
I would greatly appreciate any time you’re able to offer me. I am available most mornings, if that’s good for you.
It very well may happen that your employer contact wishes you to communicate by e-mail. The infomercial quoted above could easily be rewritten for an e-mail message. You should “cut and paste” your résumé right into the e-mail text itself.
Other effective self-promotion tools include portfolios for those in the arts, writing professions, or teaching. Portfolios show examples of work, photographs of projects or classroom activities, or certificates and credentials that are job related. There may not be an opportunity to use the portfolio during an interview, and it is not something that should be left with the organization. It is designed to be explained and displayed by the creator. However, during some networking meetings, there may be an opportunity to illustrate a point or strengthen a qualification by exhibiting the portfolio.