Networking is an important career tool, but it’s one that some undergraduates overlook. According to a 2011 survey from Adecco Staffing US, 29 percent of recent college graduates wished they had better prepared for the job market by spending more time networking while in college. Networking is a time-consuming endeavor, but it can increase your chances of employment, connect you with experts in your field, and open up new opportunities. Here are four tips to help you network effectively:
1. Make yourself visible. You can’t network from behind your computer screen. Email and social media are great ways to maintain relationships, but don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face contact. Set yourself apart from the constant barrage of emails and tweets.
2. Cultivate real relationships. Meaningful relationships require a lot of energy. You need to invest time and build a rapport with your contacts before you can ask for a favor or referral. Learn about them, try to find common areas of interest, and, most importantly, remember that relationships need to be mutually beneficial. Successful networkers give as much as they receive.
3. Diversify your network. Networking is about more than employment opportunities and collecting business cards, so develop a variety of relationships. Through networking you can build a reputation in your industry, find a mentor, learn about workshops and seminars, and meet new people with similar goals. Professional organizations, peer groups, and online networks are a wonderful source of information, support, and advice.
4. Maintain your network. Your network will require maintenance, which means you need to be proactive about reaching out. You can do this in a variety of ways, but here are a few ideas to get you started: send thank-you notes, extend invitations to industry events, share relevant articles, or arrange meetings.
Networking can help you grow within your industry and give you a competitive edge after you graduate, so start developing professional relationships now. PRSSA and the SOJC provide opportunities to network throughout the year. How have networking events had an impact on your career? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Chloe Loveall is a writer, an artist, and a slave to the creative process. After spending two years traversing the globe, she has temporarily settled down to study journalism and advertising at the University of Oregon. Follow her on Twitter at @ChloeLoveall.