The Basics of Professional Networking
Using Professional Networking to Get a Job
In a time when networking is becoming a prerequisite to success, many students seem to underestimate the value of interpersonal relationships. They may even write off professional networking as a waste of time. However, in today's world the connections we have are our most valuable assets when looking for a new opportunity. This article will explain how to systematically develop professional relationships throughout your college career, for the purposes of gaining entry-level employment after graduation.
In order to properly nurture your professional network, you should become involved with your local professional organizations. For Example, if you are studying dentistry join the American Dental Association; for Civil Engineering become involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers. Most of these organizations will have a presence at your university, usually in the form of a student chapter. Membership fees are typically negligible and are well worth the doors you will open by becoming involved with the organization.
While at the activities hosted by your respective organizations make an effort to speak to a professional. Go up to them and introduce your self. Ask what they specialize in. Remember they are there because they want to meet you too. Most business owners are constantly searching for up-and-coming professionals. You may even try to relate to them on a more personal level. If the event is near the water, ask them if they have an interest in fishing. If you are near an airport, segue into a conversation about your interest in becoming an amateur pilot. You should always keep in mind that a professional is just like you. They have hobbies, feelings, and make mistakes. As long as you keep it professional and are always polite, you will succeed in making a good first impression.
When the conversation is over ask for a business card. Whether or not you chose to follow up with the individual is entirely up to you. Nonetheless, the single most important component of professional networking is the amount of time spent face to face with a person. Therefore, you should make an effort to remember their name and say “hello” at the next event. This will set you apart from the crowd. Most professionals involved in these types of organizations meet hundreds of new people every month. It is your responsibility to make an effort to gain face time with the individual.
Now the real fun begins. You have made your first connection in your industry. It's a bit of a rush and your excited to see whom else you can meet. Fortunately for you the answer is as many people as your heart desires. As you continue to grow your professional network the effects are compounding. The more people you meet, the more people you will be introduced to. This is the secret behind networking. The idea behind the process is that by developing these relationships you will be actively recruited for an available position, rather than having to resort to the rat race that is the application process.