It’s October. Skiing is on the horizon, Thanksgiving plans are just a few weeks away, and midterms are finally over.
Have you begun your 2019 networking yet? Whether you’re a first-year student just figuring out your major or a senior still scared to go out into the professional world, you need to be ready to make next year’s connections today.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of networking. This is how you initiate conversations with those who can help you with your educational and career choices—on everything from next year’s classes to long-term strategies for financial and professional success.
The principles of networking are simple. How you apply them is up to you, your state in life, and your goals:
- Understand what you want to get out of networking. Are you looking for advice on classes, extracurricular clubs, a first job, or something else?
- Who do you know in your network of contacts who can directly help you accomplish your goals?
- If nobody can directly help you, who can indirectly help you? (For example, if you want to be a an actress in Hollywood and nobody you know can help you with the questions you have, think about who can direct you to those who can answer those questions.)
- Do a little advance research on yourself and your end goals. It’s not enough to say, “I want to be an educator” or “I want to be a chief marketing officer” or “I want to be a forensics investigator.” Do you have specific locations where you want to move, industries you want to be in (elementary school teaching vs. college professor, chief marketing officer for a ski mountain vs. a Fortune 500 company, etc.), any weaknesses and strengths you want to make sure you get advice on, etc.?
- Be professional in your outreach. You are asking someone else to spend time helping you. They may only be willing to talk to you because of someone you and they know, not because they know you personally. So be professional and respectful of their position, their expertise, and their time by being succinct, making a direct ask (“Can I please buy you coffee?” or “Call you soon” are great—and, no, they won’t let you buy them coffee, but it never hurts to show that you are willing to help them help you).
- If the meeting goes well, ask for two contacts they will either contact on your behalf or you may reach out to with their explicit recommendation.
- Send a thank-you note to the person you met with. A handwritten note is best; it will show that you took them seriously enough to take the time to write the note. And since such notes are rare today, it will help you stand out in that way, as well.
That’s it! There are other things to be aware of—such as dress codes and best places to meet that balance safety, time, and finances—but your professors can help you with those.
Oh, and can you guess the most important initial people for you to speak with regarding networking? Yup, you got it, the professors you see every week!