NETWORK (AS AN UNDERGRAD)
Networking is a strange art form that is incredibly relevant at every stage of your career. You often hear “it’s all about who you know”, and that sentiment is not entirely off-base. Networking is about expanding the “who you know.” For example, 35% of professionals say they secured their current or most recent job through a professional connection. The other side of networking is that you have lots of opportunities to pay it forward; 60% of people in the same survey said they’ve referred a friend or contact to a company.
It can feel uncomfortable or forced, but do not underestimate the power of putting yourself out there. Networking requires the right balance of being systematic and deliberate, while speaking in your own voice and being genuine. If you don’t feel confident that you have a strong starting base, don’t be intimidated. There are things you can do to start building your own network. And don’t forget, by being on secondday.org, you’re halfway there! Feel free to reach out and start building some connections right here. Below are some tips to get yourself started:
LAY THE GROUNDWORK
Build your own online profile: We aren’t saying anything groundbreaking when we point out that everything happens online now. Building your presence should happen there, too! LinkedIn is a particularly important social media platform. We all know there are certain rules to how you conduct yourself on Twitter vs. Instagram vs. Snapchat. LinkedIn has its own social norms on how to conduct yourself. Here are some tips.
Follow your dream brands/companies on social: LinkedIn works well in the reverse; be sure to follow your favorite organizations on social media to stay tapped into major announcements, thought leadership they are doing, and better understand their voice and mission.
Get business cards made: You’re a grown-up now. Yes, you need business cards. Not only are they any easy way to make a strong impression when networking, but you never know when you’ll be out and about and meet a potential contact. Business cards are a powerful tool in how you represent yourself and network. Here are a few templates to get started. They can be simple; be sure to indicate your name, phone number, and email address (the one you check most regularly). Undergrad students can include school, graduation year, and majors. If you are a creative and have an online portfolio, be sure to have your website on there.
WHERE TO FIND PEOPLE
Career services: Every college career center offers different levels of service, but they are a good place to start. They can give you some great starter tips and contacts through the alumni network. Alumni are particularly passionate and devoted networking partners, so take advantage of that as much as you can.
Faculty/staff: Start building relationships with faculty and staff as early as possible. It can not only serve your GPA, but future networking needs. Make your presence known in class, make time to chat in their office, and stay in touch on email after the course is over. You would be amazed at how far many professors will go to support you if you share your ambitions.
Recent Grads: As noted above, your alumni network is going to be especially willing to help. They literally know where you’re coming from. Career services are a good start, but you can also use LinkedIn to search for people who attended your school and see where they are employed (Click on search bar > “People” > All Filters > Schools). You can also search for companies you are interested in, and LinkedIn will note if any alumni from your school work there.
Networking Events: They may not get publicized often, but your school hosts events to facilitate networking often. Everything from industry-specific panel discussions to job fairs. Be sure to join email distribution lists across different departments if possible, and ask your career services center for a list of relevant events they may be doing as well.
Internships: The often frustrating reality is that you need to have worked to get work. Undergrad offers lots of opportunities to intern, and it’s worth making time in your busy schedule to intern a few hours a week if you are able. It allows people to get to know you personally, and see how you operate. If you can impress and deliver, then they can be a way to reach an older professional network not necessarily only built on having attended your specific university.
You Have a New Contact! Now What?
Follow up: No matter how you met this new contact, there is usually some sort of follow up involved. If you meet them in person, then you should be sure to ask for a business card so you can email them directly. You should do this within a day or two of meeting this person, and think strategically about when they would be seeing the email. It shouldn’t get buried in a storm of other work emails in the middle of the day. They may not check their email on the weekends. We recommend a weekday evening (not too late) so that it is at the top of their inbox when they go into work the next day. Be sure to use your own voice and write it to be specific to the person you are talking to (it shouldn’t feel like a copy/paste job). A few important things to include in the email:
Remind them how you met and who you are (“I’m a student at Hogwarts, majoring in Potions with a minor in Transfiguration. We met at the ‘Future Aurors of America’ Conference last week.”)
Specifically reference your interaction (“I appreciated your perspective on the future of Defense Against the Dark Arts”)
Be specific on your ask (“I would like to get a butterbeer and discuss your career trajectory, and get your perspective on how to navigate the bureaucracy of becoming an auror. Please let me know your availability next week, I’m available Tuesday and Wednesday any time.”)
Acknowledge their time and thank them (“I appreciate your help as I jump start my career and look forward to speaking to you soon.”)
Ask for an Informational Interview: An informational interview is a powerful tool that is a mix of an info session, informal job interview, and networking event of two. It allows you to dig into a contact’s professional history and their perspective on the industry, and get ideas on next steps on how to advance your own career. Here’s how to get the most out of that interaction:
Do research beforehand: Take the time to LinkedIn stalk your contact. Where did they go to school? Where else did they work?
People LOVE to talk about themselves (it’s science) so if you go in genuinely curious about someone, they will enjoy themselves
Have some thoughtful questions in your back pocket
“Do you think we’ll see a rise of another You-Know-Who in our lifetime? Why or why not?” — reference major events and how they impact your field of interest
“How can we better collaborate with the non-magical community?” — show you know the players involved and the larger ecosystem
“What do you see as the next area of magic that will really be impacted by the rise in technology?” — be forward-thinking and acknowledge the inevitable change that will be coming
Be clear on your asks. Here’s a sample outreach email from our team:
What types of roles do they have for someone in my position? When do they typically hire for them? What’s the best way to follow up? Any other organizations or people that I should connect with?
Make sure to follow up after meeting them no matter the outcome.
Have a loose plan for ongoing stewardship - maybe the first meeting isn’t the place to make the ask, or maybe you just want to make the connection and see where it goes