Career advisors and job search experts will tell you that between sixty to eighty percent of all job connections are made through networking. History has demonstrated time after time that the most important tool used in making successful job connections is an effective informational interview.
Networking can help you
- Find out how and where others are using your degree. Connect with other Alfred University alumni with the Alumni Directory or on LinkedIn that have earned comparable degrees in your field. Look for the varieties of jobs held by them.
- Explore and confirm results from Career Assessments. If your work experience is limited and you wish to explore your options, assessment tools can provide you recommendations of career fields or types of jobs that align with your strengths and aptitudes.
- Expand your depth of knowledge by asking multiple people performing a job you might like. As you narrow your list of jobs of interest, use the Alumni Directory and talk with our staff in the Career Development Center to expand your perspective of those jobs by interviewing more people in your target areas. Learn what they like and dislike about their jobs. See what experiences and perspectives are widely shared and what perspectives are individual specific.
- Solicit advice, ideas and referrals through Informational Interviews. Target individuals in the types of jobs, industries or organizations, to help you grow a network of contacts that can help you see organization specific needs, identify opportunities where organizations want to grow their teams, and to anticipate emerging markets.
Networking is more than a job search. It is active communication process that involves reaching out to help you gain insight regarding the other person’s activities, interests, needs, perspectives and contacts. It is a life skill that should be deliberately managed to maintain, or more important, to propel a successful career. Networking often results in long-term win-win relationships that are both personal and professional.
Most people are focused on their personal needs and interests rather than your objectives. If you want to engage and learn from other people, respect their time and draw information you need by learning from information and perspectives that are important to them. It is amazing the opportunities one can uncover while listening.
The most successful networkers think outward rather than inward. They focus upon understanding the person with whom they are engaging while reaching out for valuable referrals as much as the quick connection.
Effective networking occurs at informal social or industry gatherings as well as more formally requested one-to-one appointments. Always have a ready supply of business cards to share contact information and to make notes of key items of interest or commitments that you may make during a conversation.
We could fill a page with potential networking contacts. Treat everyone you meet as a potential source of information that could lead to your next connection.
Smart job seekers spend approximately 75 to 80 percent of their time creating opportunities to meet people and conduct informational interviews. Their goal is to tap in to the “hidden job market” where the majority of jobs are filled. Jobs in the “hidden market” will not be advertised and are uncovered by referrals and word of mouth.
It is likely you have heard of The Alumni Directory. Strive to connect with, but respect this resource. Our alumni tend to have a special connection drawn from shared experiences. Because of these shared experiences, many of the over 30,000 living alumni will make time to help you with your search.
You owe it to the people you meet to be current on current affairs and to be conversant on key events and industry trends.
Review the basic preparations for interviews. The same ground rules for job interviews apply to informational interviews with one major exception.
Definitely do not ask if they have any openings. You asked for an opportunity hear their advice, perspectives and ideas; you did not ask for an opportunity for self-promotion. Plan for your basic starter conversation points:
Thank them for their time. Be prepared to share why you are excited about exploring their industry and learning more from their perspectives. Mention your referral if you received one. They may ask you about your background.
Be prepared with a thirty-second introduction that elaborates on your background and interest. As an example:
“I became interested in the _(industry)__ field last summer when I worked at _(organization name) and had an opportunity to work with the _(job type)___ Director there. Her job provided an opportunity to make a difference with the organization and it really fascinated me. She worked with all aspects of (responsibility) and (responsibility); she was sincerely interested in helping helping her team _(goal)_. I liked the variety in her job and the fact that she was a very positive influence at _(organization name).”
From this point on remember that your focus is to ask questions, listen and learn. Remember that your contact is the expert. Don’t forget to send a Thank You note.
How did you get to where you are today?
What characteristics/skills make for a good ________?
(this is what they are looking for on resumes)
How would you describe the culture of your organization?
If you were starting your career today, what would you do differently?
What can I do to make myself more marketable?
Where do you see opportunity areas? Needs?
What other organizations would you recommend that I explore?
Who else should I be talking to?
What advice would you share to help someone like me prepare ?