Wednesday, February 4, 2009

10 Tips for Student Networking

For those PhD students and others, who want to know about how to network, but don't want to attend an all-day workshop on it, here is some advice from the most recent newsletter of the International Communications Association.

I recall a presentation where it was pointed out to students that 70-80% of new jobs in Australia are no longer advertised. Someone has a job requirement, meets a person who can meet the need, and employs them. As we are shedding jobs in 2009, these skills may be becoming more important.

10 Tips for Effective Networking

Establishing a successful career in the academy or business often depends upon the ability to develop and maintain beneficial networks. Dave Sanford (2009) is the Executive Vice President of Client Services for a staffing firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. He suggests that there are several steps involved in effective relationship building. Experts estimate that 60% or more of working people access their employment through social or professional networks. Competent networking skills improve the likelihood that people will be hired, promoted, and/or recommended. The following will briefly preview 10 methods for improving your networking skills.

  1. Develop a Specific Target List: Compile a list of all the individuals/groups you currently know or would like to know. Such a list may include family and friends as well as classmates, professors, and colleagues (past/present). You may even want to add people who you have worked with in financial, legal, medical, or political situations. Include members of the community service organizations you have been active with (religious, professional, or civic). Finally, consider including people from online forums and collectives.
  2. Ask to be Introduced: Think of individuals who may influence your career and connect with others who can facilitate an introduction. In the academy, such a list may include other academics, administrators, publishers, and research connections. In business, such a list may include local business owners, media representatives, hiring recruiters, and industry specialists.
  3. Prepare Messages: Initially, prepare a "30-second elevator speech" describing yourself, your professional goals, and what sets you apart from others. Develop a message that you are able to articulate genuinely and enthusiastically. Share a condensed version with your network contacts, so they have an appealing introduction with which to describe you when advocating for you.
  4. Attend Events: Get involved in important professional associations, social groups, or community collectives that will benefit your career. Make sure to introduce yourself to several individuals and discuss potential areas of similar interests with colleagues.
  5. Utilize Online Networks: Facebook and LinkedIn are two websites that may enhance your networking capacity. Keep a current profile that describes your past and current professional positions, employers, responsibilities, special skills, degrees, and awards or recognitions. Join online groups that will promote your career and make sure that other online profiles are professional. Some MySpace or YouTube accounts display pictures and text that will detract from credibility and may leave potential employers questioning about character. When you have done the background work, send contact and friend requests to individuals who are on your list of desirable contacts.
  6. Strive to Overcome Shyness: Although outgoing individuals are often more at ease with social networking, there are several ways to reduce the impact of shyness. One of these methods is to develop a list of relevant questions for new introductions. You may want to ask questions about the industry, necessary technology or program training, companies that are looking to hire, or positions that may be available. Consider asking about other individuals who would be willing to meet with you to talk about the department.
  7. Monitor Behavior: The power of a first impression will profoundly impact how others perceive you and what opportunities you are given. In general, try to integrate the following behaviors during professional interactions: Be on time. Plan for 15- to 30-minute meetings. Wear professional attire. Pick up the tab. Don't flirt. Don't smoke in front of the person (or smell like smoke). Meet for coffee or breakfast (not drinks). Eliminate annoying distractions (e.g., cell phones). And, talk about appropriate topics (industry, project goals).
  8. Set Goals: Develop concrete attainable networking goals and hold yourself to them. For instance, make a goal to e-mail five new contacts a week or to call three new contacts a week. Vow to attend two events per month and to spend 2 hours a week looking for potential network targets.
  9. Reciprocity: Mutually beneficial networking is reciprocal. Although you may be asking for assistance now, the chances are high that you will be in a position to help others at a future time. There are several ways to express gratitude to others, including offering to introduce them to another person in your network, sending relevant articles or research you may find, or bringing one of your networks to a professional event as your guest.
  10. Contact: E-mail a "thank you" message, or send a handwritten "thank you" card, to every person you have met through networking. Such things are a common courtesy and allow you to stay in touch with networks. When staying in contact, reinforce your desire to reciprocate in the future. Follow through on any promises you make and do so during a reasonable amount of time. Every 6 months, send an e-mail to your networks and let them know you've thought of them and hope they are well. Avoid mass e-mails and ensure that messages appear to have been sent individually.

Although effective networks may take time to build, good networks will ultimately help you realize your career goals through useful introductions, recommendations, and referrals. Remember, set realistic goals, follow appropriate protocol during interactions, and maintain networks through e-mail, cards, or telephone calls. Consider your own experience establishing networks and strive to assist emerging scholars, in the future, through guidance, referral, or hiring.

Sanford, D. (2008). "Flex your networking skills: 10 tips to building, maintaining, and using your professional network in a job search." The Boston Globe. Retrieved from


JeanPool said...
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JeanPool said...

Only someone who taught (or was a student) at UTS in the tower block years would suggest a 30-second lift intro...Hell, I'm sure I heard entire life stories in (and waiting) for those lifts! I made amazing friends though...

Terry Flew said...

Those lifts at the UTS tower do consume a large part of anyone's life who works in the building.