It is estimated that 70% of people land their jobs through networking. Employers fill positions with people they know or are referred by colleagues. If an employer can fill a position this way, why go through the hassle of a job search?
What is Networking?
Networking involves communication with anyone who might be in a position to provide you with insight, advice and referrals about your career search. Not only will you be talking to the people that you meet but also, indirectly, to all the people they know.
Some, especially those that are new to networking, worry that people will not want to be bothered or that networking is somehow unethical. Networking is a mutual relationship. The people with who you network might want to employ your resources one day. Also, when a contact recommends you to someone in their network, and you perform well, their social and professional capital goes up.
The Informational Interview
An integral part of networking is the informational interview where you connect with someone in a field you are interested in learning about. How to start:
- Find someone in your career field for the purpose of gathering information. Ask people you know if they know someone in the field of events planning, biochemistry, banking, restaurants, nursing, teaching, or whatever area you want to find out more about.
- Contact that person and ask if you can meet with them for about 20 minutes. Find out if it would be best to talk in person, on the phone, or via email.
- Do your research. Use Google and LinkedIn. The more you know about your contact's position and organization the more you will be able to key in on questions that you can only get answers to through a personal contact. Those who you meet with are likely to be busy—make the time you spend with them worthwhile to them and to you. Most people love to provide advice making them feel knowledgeable, helpful, and important.
- Prepare questions in advance. Ask for their ideas, opinions, and advice (see below for example questions).
- Never ask for a job. This is one of the most important rules of networking. Instead ask for information. If the person you are interviewing knows of a job, and you have made a good impression, they are likely to tell you about the position without you needing to ask.
- Take notes and then organize/complete them after the interview. In the long-run, you will want to remember what was discussed.
- Be at your best—on time, interested, and respectful. Follow-up with a thank you note. Not only do you want to let the person know that you appreciate their time, but you may wish to call on this person as a valuable contact further along in your career search.
Informational Interview Example Questions
- How did you get into this field?
- What kind of individual is best suited for this kind of position? What skills are important? What type of personality is well suited?
- What do you like most/least about your job?
- What are the various jobs available in this field?
- If you were in my shoes, what would you be doing over the next ____ years to best position myself by graduation?
- Will my education prepare me for a job in this field? If not, how can I improve my candidacy?
- What do you do on a typical workday?
- What is the typical entry-level salary in this field?
Job Search Questions
- How did you go about finding your job?
- What strategies would you recommend for getting a job in your field? With your company?
- What skills are the most important for your position? (note: these can then be highlighted during the job search, on your resume, and in an interview).
- Would you mind looking at my resume and letting me know your thoughts?
- Who else should I be talking to? May I use your name when contacting them?
LinkedIn FOR Westminster students
A key component of successful networking is an effective use of LinkedIn. By learning to use the LinkedIn's Alumni Tool you will have access to the 12,000 members of the Westminster College community, including the names of those who have indicated in their profiles that they are currently at, graduated from, or somehow associated with the college. When selecting the alumni tool, if Westminster College does not appear immediately, find it by clicking on Change University on the right side of the page.
Here you can search for fellow Griffins by where they work or have worked, where they live, and what they studied in college. You can research the career paths of how alumni got to their current positons or send an invitation to connect with whom you would like to do an informational interview. See the Alumni Tool tips.
While not everyone chooses to make their profiles readily available you will be able to see a number from the Westminster community. Try to connect with those from whom you can learn. Before sending an invitation to connect you will want to create or update your LinkedIn profile so that another person will see the professional value of accepting your request. Linked for Students provides tip sheets and short videos on how to get the most benefit from your LinkedIn profile.