Networking is one of the most important activities that job-seekers need to master to be truly successful in their career search.
Many survey results indicate approximately 80 – 90% of employment opportunities are achieved through networking. Because the vast majority of job openings are never advertised, job-seekers need to have a network of contacts (a career network) which can help provide information, leads on job openings, career support, and invaluable information not available otherwise.
How do I network?
Create a 30-60 second ‘elevator pitch’ or a ‘commercial’ about YOU! Start with a firm handshake and your name (very important). Then, include information on your professional background, education,professional and academic goals and visions. Reserve personal information for when you get the job. If you have a business or networking card, don’t be afraid to hand it out.
If you have read our other pages on networking, you know that talking to the people you know can be a great asset to your career. The Career Development Center offers Mock Interviews as well as useful handouts and worksheets about networking in addition to this page. Now that you know how to find those hidden job leads, here are some etiquette points to help you become an expert at business networking.
General Networking Tips
- Follow up on leads or referrals quickly
- Offer to help others when you can. Business relationships should be mutually beneficial
- Always send a thank you note. This is one of the best ways to make a good impression
- Keep a file of contact information (business card organizers work well for this). Try to get in touch with the people in your network at least once a month
- Be prompt. Five minutes early is on time
- Be patient, and listen more than you speak. Use open-ended questions that help the other person know what you’re looking for, but still allow them freedom
- Try not to substitute technology for face-to-face conversation. Email is okay, phone calls are better, and meetings are best
- Silence your cell phone, or set it to vibrate mode. Voice mail was invented for a reason!
- The person standing right in front of you should always take priority over the person trying to call you.
- Always ask before you give out someone’s contact information. This will allow them to prepare for a possible interaction.
Meeting New People
- Stand up to greet someone, especially if you have not met them before. Be friendly, and remember to smile and make appropriate eye contact
- Handshakes should be firm, and last for about 2-5 seconds. When you shake hands, make eye contact
- When you introduce yourself, make sure you let the other people know who you are and what you do. It will be easier for the other person if you let them know how they should address you
- Introduce less important people to more important people
- Remember names, but avoid using first names until you have been given permission to do so
- Feel free to exchange business cards with the person
- Follow up with an email or phone call if you think the two of you can have a mutually beneficial relationship. Three to five days is a good time range to do so.
- Treat a business or networking card as an extension of your own image. Invest in quality cards, and keep them clean and in good condition. Ensure the contact information is up to date!
- Try not to keep the cards you receive loose in your pocket or purse, as that could be perceived as rude. Instead, invest in a card holder to keep them in. Try to avoid putting them in your back pockets altogether.
- Make sure to have a good supply of cards when you go to a networking function. Bring enough to give to everyone you plan to talk to, and a few extra, just in case.
- Business cards are usually exchanged at the beginning or end of a conversation. Follow the lead of the person you are talking with, but feel free to offer your card even if they do not.
- When receiving a business card, take the time to look it over and make a comment about it. Do not write on the card in front of its owner unless you are directed to do so.
- Plan what to say ahead of time. This will help you be concise
- Know the title and name of the person you are calling, as wel as the best time to call
- Briefly explain why you are making the call. Introduce yourself in a few sentences, so the person you are calling will be better able to judge what the call is about
- Avoid jargon and slang and keep away from personal questions, so you do not make others uncomfortable
- Discuss private or sensitive topics in person. If you absolutely must conduct private business over the phone, confirm with the other person that it is appropriate
- Always let someone know if you put them on speaker phone
- Speak slowly and enunciate. Telephones may distort your voice a little, and you would not want to be misinterpreted
- Do not speak too loud/soft, and use a positive tone of voice. Be aware that people can not see your body language over the phone, and make sure your point is clear
- If you must leave a message, plan it out before you call. Be brief and concise, and make sure to leave your phone number for them. Give them a few good times to call you, so you can avoid playing “telephone tag”
- Return phone calls promptly. This will help you make a good impression, and you will be less likely to forget to return an important voice mail.
Who should be in my network?
Everyone you know is already in your network and should know your career goals. Think of everyone that you know,and compile a list. Educate them on your current visions, goals,and plans. All of these individuals are key players in your job search, they know you, and they also know other people who might have great opportunities for YOU!
- Parents of Classmates
- Guest Speakers
- Current and Past Employers
- Volunteer Organizations
- Professional Affiliations
- Human Resources
Where should I network?
- Career/Job Fairs (Be sure to distribute your resume!)
- Volunteer Events
- Employer Information Sessions
There are 1,000’s of organizations in different fields that you can become a member of.
Example: University of Illinois at Springfield Alumni Association, http://www.uiaa.org
- Student Clubs & Organizations
- Facebook, Myspace
- Organization Memberships: Many organizations offer memberships with access to other members and their valuable contact information.
Conversation Skills for Networking
Business etiquette is very important to theart of conversation. The way you present yourself during meetings,networking events, or even just daily conversations have a greatimpact on your professional reputation. Especially if you are juststarting your career, you need to be aware of the rules of businessetiquette. Here are some conversational tips to help you as youlaunch your career.
Tips and Tricks
Content: What You Say
- Maintain a positive attitude about yourself and your accomplishments. Try not to understate! Talking about yourself positively is not the same as bragging, so put your best foot forward. Confidence attracts people
- Exaggerating is not a good idea
- Avoid politics and religion as conversation topics
- Avoid using jargon and acronyms
- Stay positive about other people. A negative attitude makes it hard for you to build trust with people
- Use action verbs when you talk about your skills.
Delivery: How You Say It
- Plan what you will talk about, so the conversation will flow more smoothly. This will help you be concise.
- Try to enunciate (but don’t overdo it).
- Vary your inflection so you are not monotonous
- Speak at a comfortable pace for the other person to listen to you. Midwesterners and International Students often speak too quickly. Slow down a bit!
- Watch your volume. If you are talking in a crowded room, speak up. If you are somewhere others can hear, be courteous.
- Stay calm. If you need a moment, take a deep breath or ask the other person a question.
- Be aware of others’ personal boundaries. You should not crowd the other person, but you should not be standoffish either. This is especially important in cross-cultural communication. Being attuned to the small cultural differences between you and a business associate will make the conversation much more comfortable and effective.
- Show confidence, but try not to appear too aggressive. Being aware of the messages your body language is sending will help you accomplish this.
- Be aware of your personal appearance, and practice good hygiene. If you are unsure about what to wear, check out our Dress for Success page.
- If you blink too much, you may be distracting to the other person. But if you hardly blink at all, your eyes may turn red and watery.
- If you have any nervous twitches, try not to make them too obvious.
- Tame your hand gestures. You may move your hands a little to emphasize a point, but keep it natural.
- Use appropriate eye contact. Intense eye contact can make you appear confrontational or confused. Too little contact can make you appear rude and disinterested.
- Stand straight, but not too stiffly.
- Be aware of your facial expression. Ideally, you want to smile and appear pleasant without looking fake or stiff.
- Try to make the other person comfortable. One easy way to do this is to mirror small parts of the other person’s body language.
- Always be courteous about cell phone/PDA use. Try not to use these devices unless it is an absolute emergency. If you are expecting a call, tell the other person.
- Be courteous and tactful. Harsh comments can easily ruin a person’s impression of you.
- Be yourself, and try not to stress about formalities. One common mistake people make is coming across as overly formal.
- Speak and act genuinely. People can tell if you are being fake and this will not help their impression of you.
- No matter what your current mood is, be friendly.
- Listen to the other person. If you are just trying to figure out what to say next, you will not come across as sincere. Conversation is a two-way street; try not to be so set on your talking points that you miss what the other person has to offer.
- Interrupting is a big no-no. You will appear rude if you interrupt, and the other person will know you were not really listening.
- Get to know the other person by asking questions.
- Patience is key. If you do not wait to establish a good relationship with someone, you will appear pushy. Make sure both of you are comfortable with each other before making plans.
- Do be attuned to the chemistry between yourself and the other person- if you don’t click, try not to pursue them too much.
Networking Appointment Etiquette
- Timeliness shows respect and responsibility. Just be cautious- showing up early may inconvenience the other person, and it shows you are wasteful with your time.
- If you set up the appointment, make an agenda. Just remember-the other person may have other important information, so stay flexible.
- Know how much time you have early on. This will help you judge how much time you should spend on small talk before getting down to business.
- Leave when your time is up. Both of you have other things to do.
- If you need information, make sure you get it, but be polite and gentle, not demanding or overbearing.
- Always show the proper respect for the other person. Mind your manners, and send a thank you note or card when appropriate. Even if you decide not to send a card, make a short phone call or send a quick email to let them know you appreciate their time.
Ending a Conversation
- End in a timely manner, so you do not waste time.
- Remember to thank the person for their time.
- Be sincere. The last words are every bit as important as the first words you share with someone, and they weigh heavily into their impression of you.
- Be aware of the other person’s body language. If they start to fidget, look around the room or use noncommittal words like ‘okay’, ‘interesting’,and ‘hmm’, they are probably finished talking (and possibly bored!)
- If you feel stuck, here are some simple exit strategies:
- Ask for the person’s business card.
- Schedule a future meeting for lunch or coffee.
- Arrange to follow up with them later by phone or email.
- Excuse yourself shortly after someone else joins the conversation.
- Always remember to say goodbye to everyone you meet, using their name if possible.