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Friday, September 28, 2018

A College Student's Career Guide:
How to Expand Your Network



Networking is essential for your professional career. It's probably more important than your academics and your resume. In fact, according to Hubspot, a high percentage of 85% of jobs are filled by networking. For those who find this unfair, think about it from a logical perspective. People are more willing to say you're qualified for a job if they know and like you. Resumes are faceless and have no substance compared to people that you already know personally.

You already have a network and are probably constantly expanding your network without even thinking. Your family, friends, old school teachers, professors, schoolmates, and coworkers are part of your network. Imagine if you decided to network with putting some thought and effort into it. Your network will be intentional and filled with different kinds of people that you want to be connected to.

It may seem intimidating at first, but expanding your network is not nearly as scary or nervewracking as it seems. A lot of university career centers put a lot of pressure into this and make it more complicated than it has to be. Let me tell you. It's not. In this blog post, A College Student's Career Guide: How to Expand Your Network I'll go over different ways to expand your network and different tips on how to interact while you're networking and what to do on how to maintain these relationships.

Different Ways to Network

1.) Give an informational interview with a person of interest.

An informational interview is an informal conversation with someone who is in a position, industry, or in the company of your interest. The main objective of this conversation is to gain insight into the job, company, or industry that you're interested in or even just to get advice from that particular person.

How to find possible prospects:
a. Look in your immediate surroundings
Take a look around you at your school, work, community service groups, etc. There may be someone of interest right next to you!
b. Use social media
The key is to look in the right social media platform. If you're looking to speak to someone in a professional career, LinkedIn is the place to look. You can search for specific job titles, employees in a company that you want to work for, or look at your school's alumni page to connect with someone who went to your school and is in your prospective field. If you're looking for something more creative and less formal, I would recommend Instagram or YouTube if they use it as a portfolio of their skills. If they provide an email on their social media sites, it's best to use that as it seems more professional and they might take it more seriously than a direct message.
c. Use Shapr
Shapr is a new networking app that recently came out. Its format is similar to Tinder where you swipe left if you're not interested in meeting that person or right if you are. Once you and another person "match", you guys can message each other. It also allows you to select how would you like to meet the person (over coffee, lunch, dinner, over the phone, over video chat, etc) and say why you're interested in networking. That way, you can connect with someone who is interested in meeting for the same reasons.
d. Use Google.
This is particularly useful if you have a specific field in mind, like, lawyers, psychologists, real estate agents, life coaches, etc. That way, you can find people within this field in your area.

I understand how scary it can be to reach out to someone. Rejection's real. But, to be honest, under these circumstances, most people are willing to help out and people love giving advice. It gives them a little ego boost. So, don't be nervous and shoot your shot. Worst case scenario, they won't respond or say that they're busy. But, they definitely won't say you're a fool for reaching out to them.

Once you get the informational interview, you need to prepare. Research a little more about the person. You want to optimize your time with your interviewee. The last thing you want to ask is something that can easily be answered by a quick Google search.

After you've done your research, you need to put together questions for the interview. If there's something that piqued your interest when you were researching about them, ask them about it. I put a couple of general questions that you can ask down below, so you can get started on compiling your questions.

Possible questions to ask:
a. What attracted you to this field?
b. What would you say some skills do you need to become successful in this job field?
c. What steps do you think I should take to get started in this industry?
d. Can you please describe a typical workday?
e. What don't you like about this company?
f. What have been the biggest challenges have you faced within this role?
g. How did you get where you are today?
h. Who are other people would you recommend for me to contact?

The University of Buffalo's School of Management has a great article about different questions to ask while you're conducting your informational interview. It breaks down the questions into different categories, such as responsibilities and duties, skills and experience, etc. Click here to take a look at the questions they suggest to ask!

2.) Ask for an introduction.

Use your current network to connect you with people within their network. If you know someone that knows someone else that you're interested in meeting, ask them to introduce you.

3.) Attend an EventBrite or Meetup event.

A great way to learn about networking events is through Eventbrite or Meetup. You can see what events are happening in your area on any date. You can filter it by your interests so you can network with people who have the same interests as you. Or, if you want it to be strictly business networking, you can look for business networking events around you. The best part is you can do all the booking and pay for the event all in the comfort of your own home!

4.) Attend a conference.

Attending a conference that you're interested in is a great way to network with people who are on the same wavelength as you. Connecting with someone who is like-minded and is taking action in the venture that you want to pursue is one of the most powerful connections that you have because you will be more motivated and inspired to pursue your own path.

Examples of conferences: Grant Cardone's 10X Growth Conference, Forbes's 30 Under 30 Summit, Dreamforce

5.) Take advantage of everyday interactions.

Waiting in line at Starbucks? Talk to the person behind you. Having lunch at a restaurant? Talk to the waiter/waitress. Working at your retail job? Talk to the customers.

You can network with basically anyone, anywhere, anytime. Who knows who'll you meet when you actually start talking to strangers?

Networking Tips

1.) Give a good handshake.

When you're going in for a handshake, the web of your hand should meet the web of the other person's hand. As you're shaking their hand, maintain eye contact with them as you're smiling at them and introduce yourself. Your handshake should be firm and brief. For a visual demonstration, watch the video below:


2.) Talk to them as if they're your friend.

If you've ever gone to your school's networking workshop, they probably told you, "You can't do this, you can't do that. You're supposed to do this, you're supposed to do that." And, they probably told you all these "rules" when you're talking to people during networking events. I'm not saying to completely ignore them, but don't pay too much attention to them.

I personally believe that school career services put a lot of pressure into something that isn't that formal or complicated. As soon as my cousin told me you just talk to them as if they're your friends, it felt like the pressure lifted from my shoulders. It's just having a regular conversation with someone.

3.) Ask open-ended questions.

Using open-ended questions lead to more fulfilling conversations. If you just ask yes or no questions, the end of the conversation is when they answer yes or no unless the other person decides to expand on their answer. When you ask open-ended questions, you're kind of forcing them to expand and talk to you. You'll have more to go off of, too.

Yes-or-no Question
Open-ended Question
Do you like working for your company?
How do you like working for your company?
Did you hear the event through your job?
How did you hear about this event?
Did you apply for this job through Indeed?
How did you hear about the job posting?
Have you been at this job for long?
When did you start at your job?

4.) Listen.

You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you talk. When you're giving someone your undivided attention, the other person will feel like whatever they're saying is important. It leaves a good impression on them because they're thinking, "Wow, this person actually cares about what I have to say."

Think about it. Have you ever had someone just listen to you? Like, you could actually tell that they're listening to you. How did you feel? Important, right? Probably like whatever you had to say matters. You want the person that you're speaking with to feel that when they're speaking to you.

5.) Be mindful of your body language.

A. Uncross your arms.

By crossing your arms, you create a barrier between you and the other person. People can interpret this gesture as unwelcoming and closed off. You may even be less approachable to some. Instead, try moving your arms in a more open position. If you look in this picture from the networking event below, you can see that no one is crossing their arms.


B. Mirror the person that you're talking to.

If you're having a really good conversation with someone, you probably subconsciously mirror the other person. This could be facing the same direction as the other person or having similar hand positioning. According to Psychologia.co, humans do this as a means to build a bond and an understanding, especially if you're on the same wavelength.

By consciously mirroring the other person's actions, you can possibly move the conversation along. But, don't mirror everything and don't do it too eagerly because it can come off the wrong way.


Source

C. Lean in.

Leaning in shows that you're interested in the conversation. It's showing you want to know more. Leaning away shows disinterest, dislike, or negativity. According to GlobalListeningCentre.org, there are studies that show that if you lean forward while someone's talking, they'll talk more.

Picture
Source

D. Nod.

Give some positive feedback to the speaker and nod your head slowly every so often to show that you're listening and understanding what they're saying

E. Smile.

Show that you're friendly and approachable with a smile. A lot of people will mirror your smile so you know that they're open to conversation and friendly, too.

6.) Keep in touch.

Make sure you get their business card or contact info before parting ways with them. Write any details about them on the back the card. That way, when you reach out it's a more personalized email or message. In your email or phone call, reintroduce yourself again and mention the event where you guys met and ask them to coffee so you have a chance to create a stronger connection with that person.

7.) Remember to give, not just take.

Always make sure you're giving as much as you're taking. No one likes feeling used. As a matter of fact, try helping the other person first. If they mention that they're looking for a job in app development and you come across a job listing that seems perfect for them, send them the job listing. If they mention they're looking for a job candidate in human resources and your friend is looking for a job in human resources, connect them together.

8.) Be yourself.

The best relationships are genuine and the best way to achieve that is to be genuine. If you feel like you have to be disingenuous to yourself, it's not a relationship you want to maintain anyway.

Congrats on taking this step towards your professional growth! I'm so proud of you and always rooting for your growth! If you've found this helpful, share this with your friends on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!



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