Tuesday, March 26, 2013

16 Networking Guidelines for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

1. Find an approach to networking that works for you.  That might entail spending considerable time and effort attending events, or instead focusing on one-on-one meetings with professionals to learn more about their work and how you can apply your education and experience in that particular occupation.  You’ll need to engage in both activities, yet your preference may be to choose one more than the other.  That’s fine!

2. Take advantage of all opportunities (sponsored by your school as well as those organized by local business and professional organizations) to connect with fellow students, alumni, and working professionals.

3. Get comfortable with not knowing what you want professionally. Embrace that uncertainty, and see networking as an opportunity to get clearer as you meet people, acquire information, and gain new insight.

4. Set goals related to networking, and develop plans for achieving them. They might involve learning about a particular occupation or industry, then identifying relevant organizations and individuals, and finally reaching out to set up conversations with them.  

5. Commit to weekly, if not daily, effort to achieve your goals.  

6. When reaching out to people you don’t know (whether you do so by being referred or simply by sending an unsolicited email or making a call), cast your net widely.  Assume some people won’t respond, or won’t be available to connect with you. 

7. Dress, act, and communicate professionally in all your networking efforts. 

8. Get to know your instructors outside the classroom, especially those with professional experiences and commitments that mirror your own interests (or potential interests).

9. Create and maintain a system for tracking the pursuit of your networking goals. 

10. As you complete each class assignment, ponder whether you want to explore the subject further in terms of either research or practical experience – then consider options for doing so (by consulting with the instructor of the course and/or someone in your career services office).

11. Visit your career services office early in your academic career, and often to report on your progress and to seek advice, counsel, and inspiration.   

12. Establish accountability groups consisting of your classmates, who will provide you with a forum to discuss your career/job search efforts, offer you feedback from peers, and make you accountable for commitments you make to take certain actions in pursuit of your networking goals. 

13. Reach out to all individuals who have known you since you were born (e.g., family friends) and share with them your career plans, seek their advice, and request referrals to individuals they know who might be able to help you gain knowledge and insight related to your career plans. 

14. Use time off from school as opportunities to increase the time you spend on networking, whether that’s in terms of meeting with people individually, attending events, or other activities. 

15. When completing an internship or other project that requires you to interact with individuals outside your school, reach out to these professionals and set up time to speak with each about their jobs and careers.

16. Update people in your network on the status of your career exploration, and when relevant seek their advice.  

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