Practical tips for networking

Connections exist where you might never have imagined

By Lisa Nault
Staff Writer

Networking is a term that gets thrown around all the time. It is an essential tool for growth in whatever field of study you are in whether, it’s nursing, communication, or business management. It is so important, but people have difficulty networking. Why do people have trouble using networking skills to obtain interviews?

Being able to connect to people is a necessary skill that allows casual interactions to lead to big opportunities. If you do not have this ability yet, that’s okay; many people at this stage in life do not. You are not alone. All you have to do is learn the secrets behind this very handy tool.

pic of students at a networking dinner

The Economics department held a networking event for its majors and minors over an annual dinner. The event celebrated the success of the program and helped assist students make connections for their future careers. Photo: Simmons.edu/Events.

The most basic form of networking is handing out business cards to important or potentially helpful people. A business card is a simple small piece of paper that represents who you are to someone. It is the smallest form of marketing yourself.

And the best part about business cards is that you can buy hundreds of them in bulk for relatively good prices depending on where you look. But what exactly should you put on your very important networking tool?

For starters, the card represents you, so whatever design you have on your card should be something you like. Many places that make business cards have themes and pre-made designs which are great if you have never made one before.

The information that goes on them needs to include: your name, address, and contact information (both phone number and email).

Any additional information you put on the card is up to you. You can put your major, current occupation, or even your company or school name/logo if you want to. Once you make business cards make a habit of always carrying at least five on you at all time. You never know when a networking opportunity will arise.

Networking can feel awkward, but it’s like that for everyone. One important networking technique is simply sending an email. Once you have gotten the email contact information of someone who you would like to stay in contact with, you should send an email stating your perspective.

Many people find it strange to email another person who they do not know that well to say something like, “I just wanted to touch base and say that I enjoyed our conversation and would like to keep in contact in the future.”

Of course it feels weird to type, but you should know that people may not reach out for that reason. It is better to reach out then not at all. Follow up emails are just as important. If you sent in your resume and cover letter to a company a week ago, it is completely acceptable to send a follow-up and state that you just wanted to check in.

The worst thing that could happen is the employer saying they do not want you, in which case you move on to the next place. By reaching out through email, you are showing that you value their contact or are interested in a job position.

Whenever a networking event is being held at a school, or in the local area, that is in your field of study, you should try very hard to attend. The wonderful thing about these events is that you can get a stack of contact information and meet potential employers. By taking a few hours out of your day to go to these types of events, you will have expanded your potential job opportunities by a decent amount.

A helpful tip I received once was that any person could be a supportive resource. Networking with people who might not be in your career path can still be just as valuable.

For example, a person who interns at a newspaper, and wants to be an editor, could network with the accountant from that company and discover that accountant works at several other newspapers, and gives one of them your name when they are looking for someone.

You may be surprised what connections other people may have. That is the beauty of networking: you know one person, who knows somebody, who knows another person, and so on. As a result of you networking with one person you are now connected to even more people.

Networking can be very tricky, but once you learn the skill, it will open up many doors for you. By networking you can obtain an interview for an internship that is just perfect for you. Then you have to learn how to have a successful interview.

A helpful place to look when you are just starting to network is your circle. Professors and advisors have many connections and already know you, so they can help you find exactly what you are looking for. The first thing you should do if you are interested in networking is to get in touch with a professor you like and let them know what you are looking for in a internship and career.

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