When you first begin your internship or job search process, networking can seem like an ambiguous and unstructured task. Unlike the experience of applying for specific posted jobs via email or a job-search site, networking requires you to be proactive in seeking mentors and new opportunities through social interactions.
70 percent of all jobs are found through networking
Networking—the process of forming relationships with people connected to your prospective industry—frequently leads to job opportunities. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Yale University report that 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking.
At American Honors, we’ve surveyed the career readiness research to come up with essential tips for successful networking. Read through and get started! Your future job awaits.
Seven tips for effective networking
Tip #1 Connect with alumni
One of the best parts of transferring to a four-year college or university is that you become part of a powerful alumni network for life. These people have shared a common experience with you, and many are willing to assist younger alumni. Your college most likely has an alumni center, or specific networking initiatives at the career office with graduates in your prospective industry. Try doing some research on your college’s alumni or career services website, or set up an appointment with a career advisor.
Tip #2 Search for a mentor
Mentors can be helpful during your college experience for many different reasons, but in terms of networking, they can help you grow and solidify your network of established people in a prospective field. When you are looking for a mentor, you are searching for a combined teacher, coach, and confidant who can, most importantly, provide you with advice on your chosen path. U.S. News recommends that you reflect about the exact nature of the mentor relationship, such as their field of expertise, or their past job experiences. When you decide what you want, start with your professors or other professionals you know in the field that you want to explore. Offer to meet individuals for coffee, ask advice, and follow up. As you progress through your college experience, mentors can provide you with valuable career advice, and perhaps even job opportunities.
Tip #3 Use social media (strategically)
If you have ever looked for a job or internship, you have probably been warned about social media. (“Make your profile private! Take down those images! Careful with your language!”) It is also important for you to know how to proactively use social media to your advantage. LinkedIn, the world’s “largest professional network,” allows you to profile your professional and educational experiences, interests, and aspirations. When using social media, make sure that your profile is spotless—no grammar mistakes, typos, or inappropriate comments.
Tip #4 Take advantage of formal networking opportunities
To jumpstart your networking initiative, connect with career services at your college. These offices usually offer formal events geared towards majors or prospective industries, such as business, law, or education. The events vary from information sessions to recruiting meetings to job fairs. And be open-minded—sometimes, it may seem like a particular event is not targeted to you (“Graduating Senior Job Fair!”), but it could still be a good networking opportunity. Regardless of the event, dress professionally and carry copies of your resume, with contact information.
Tip #5 Utilize informal opportunities
Does your roommate’s sister work in architecture, your dream industry? Or does your professor have connections at certain hospitals where you could conduct research? Ask for introductions to relevant individuals, and meet these people for coffee, lunch, or informational interviews. They can likely share personal experience about job searching as well as firsthand information about what the career path is actually like. Finally, they may be able to connect you to even more people within their field.
Tip #6 Prepare, prepare, prepare
Before you attend an event or post a LinkedIn profile, prep your materials and yourself. Rehearse your “pitch,” and make sure you are clear on your personal motivation, so you can frame it to others. Brian Harke of the Huffington Post Blog reviews do’s and don’ts, and then encourages job seekers to apply their skills, experience, and aspirations. “There are endless opportunities to make new contacts and grow your network. Be creative. Be proactive.”
Tip #7 Form relationships, and follow up
Networking is only effective if you keep your network strong. Try not to wait until you need a job to connect with the contacts you make—send updates, notes, and emails. Visit if you are in the area. Maintain your connections so you can naturally contact them if you have questions or concerns. As Yale Career Services states, “Don’t let the contact get stale, as you never know when you might next need to call on those in your network.”
Finally, don’t forget one advantage that many of you already have (or could have) in common - the American Honors network!