As spring approaches, another class of SUNY students will graduate to join the over three million SUNY alumni. For those students, and the tens of thousands of others with credits left to earn, networking is key to landing a job. There are many ways to network and many situations that can lead to opportunities outside of a career fair. We’ve put together thirteen tips for networking so that you can best showcase your superior skill set, whatever the situation!
1. Get a co-op or internship. Did you know that 60% of paid internships turn into job offers? You will gain industry experience, collect valuable connections, and have the opportunity to show the employer exactly what you’re capable of much more effectively than in a 30-minute interview.
Also, in a recent study conducted by Marketplace and the Chronicle of Higher Education, internships came back as the most important thing that employers look for when evaluating a recent college graduate.
SUNY recently launched the SUNY Works Cooperative Education and Internship program that allows you to gain valuable work experience directly tied to your program of study, increasing your job opportunities upon graduation! To find out about co-op and internship opportunities check with your school’s career counseling center or e-mail SUNYWorks@suny.edu.
2. Be ready to start a conversation. You want to be able to sit down for five minutes and lead a healthy exchange that shows your level of intelligence, common sense, and sharpness. It’s not so much about a topic that you should shoot to talk about as much as it is the manner in which you can make the conversation flow (no awkward pauses!). Be selective, though; don’t talk politics or the weather!
3. Always look your best. Think of going to class as your job. Perhaps USA Today College explains this best:
Surprise! There’s a guest speaker at class today and they’re looking to recruit interns for their company.
However, you opted to skip the shower and threw on your super comfy sweatpants. As unfair as it may seem, research shows that people make a first impression within seven seconds. And let’s face it, industry connections are too important to miss out on because of a wardrobe mishap.
4. Make notes about the conversations you have and keep in touch. It’s as simple as dedicating a notebook or journal to logging each connection’s background information, family that he or she mentioned, and other main topics you talk about. This is incredibly valuable to look over prior to future conversations because it shows that person that you value them.
5. Know the limits. It’s great to make connections and add to your list of contacts, but you want to make sure that your interest is genuine and you respect their personal and professional space. Don’t inundate a prospective contact with emails and phone messages!
6. Label what you’re doing as something other than “networking”. CareerBuilder explains:
Some people have grown weary of being networked. Unless you are attending a function specifically earmarked for networking, it’s best not to advertise the fact that that is what you are doing. Instead, think of yourself as making connections, building relationships and seeking advice.
7. Volunteer with an area organization or support a cause. By dedicating time and energy to your community, your humanity is displayed, you make an actual impact on those around you, and it gives you an opportunity to mingle with other community members. If you’re not sure how to give or volunteer, check out our 7 Ways to Foster Civic Engagement this Semester.
8. Listen to what they have to say. This will not only make you remember the conversation so that you can write down the main points later (remember, make notes!), but also allow you to ask better questions through the course of the conversation. Listening is the difference between having a genuine conversation and simply meeting somebody.
9. Practice your elevator speech. What’s an elevator speech? As our former intern, Juliette, explains in a video with Chancellor Zimpher in 2009, it’s a short, concise summary to communicate with somebody—traditionally in the time that it takes, or setting of, an elevator ride with a potential contact. Once you have your pitch ready—say, 10 to 30 seconds long—practice it so that you’re ready at as soon as those stainless steel doors close!
10. You’re a student—use it to your advantage! Connect with your school’s alumni (SUNY has over 3 million) and discover how those people got the careers of their dreams.
11. Take advantage of career fairs. Whether the event is hosted by the local commerce organization or your college specifically, attending the fair should be a no-brainer. You’ll have the chance to talk (and network) with the employers–the people making hiring decisions! You can ask them questions about the industry, their company, or even their personal decisions along the way in order to put a bow atop your personal talent package.
While LinkedIn is lauded as the professional social network, Twitter can be even more useful for connecting with people you want to know. Make a list of people in your industry who you look up to, and use the network strategically to connect with them. Like LinkedIn, Twitter can help you take all of these strategies to the next level because it provides an opportunity to keep in touch with the network you’re building.
12. Get your foot in the door! Reach out to prospective employers to request “informational interviews”. Although an informational interview won’t necessarily result in a job, it’s a great way to get you noticed for a future position. If you make a good impression during an informational interview, you’ll likely be kept in mind as a candidate when a job does open up.
The other good thing about informational interviews is that you can learn more about the company. Although you might not think that’s important – it is. Knowing more about a company you potentially want to work for can help you learn about divisions you might not have known about – divisions where there might be jobs that interest you – and make you more informed for an actual interview.
Make sure you are prepared; look your best, have questions to guide the conversation, and always be on time!
13. Get on LinkedIn. The purpose of LinkedIn is to foster networking. You can reconnect with your past friends and classmates and showcase your competitive edge to prospective employers. In fact, according to a recent study, 93% of job recruiters recorded using LinkedIn to successfully fill positions in 2012. We’ve saved this tip for last because the first step to a successful life of networking is creating a profile on LinkedIn!
BONUS: SUNY’s getting in on LinkedIn, too—how can we help you connect with prospective contacts easier? Let us know in the comments!
Photo: Binghamton University