Networking Like a Pro

Recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike can benefit from learning how to leverage their professional networks into career opportunities. Take these tips from experts in FDU’s Career Development Center and get going!

Thoroughly research your career interests, any potential contacts and the related job market before starting to network. Preparing in advance leads to asking more intelligent questions and to learning more in-depth information about people, their work environments and their organizations.

Professional associations provide in-depth information about career fields and other resources through websites, publications and live and virtual events. Join one!

Talk to the people who work at your dream companies, people who work within your industry, people whose careers you admire, fellow alumni, friends and friends of friends, etc. People usually like to be asked for advice — it means that you value their opinion and insight and see them as a source of information and support.

You have one chance to make a great first impression, so be prepared to market yourself on the spot. Practice your personal pitch until you feel confident about communicating your strengths. People find it comforting and engaging when you approach them with a smile and make eye contact. State your name clearly and articulate yourself well.

Hone and develop active listening skills. Ask open-ended questions to allow conversations to flow naturally. Networking is a two-way street.

Foster relationships. Ask for advice, not for a job. Talk about the skills you are looking to develop and the opportunities and industries that interest you. Ask your contacts to keep you in mind if they hear of any corresponding opportunities.

Go digital: LinkedIn and Handshake are two of the best platforms for networking. Offer a virtual handshake, introduce yourself via a direct message and “follow” your contacts. Build your personal brand, showcase skills and experiences, join pertinent groups and discussions and stay in touch with alumni and potential employers on LinkedIn.

Be proactive, and be your best advocate. Reach out to recruiters through email and social media. Recruiters may miss Handshake and LinkedIn profiles in their searches, so it is up to you to promote yourself to them directly.

Collect business cards from people you’ve connected with in a meaningful way, making notes on the back of the cards about what you’d like to follow up on. Ask for a time to speak again or for more information — whatever makes practical professional sense based on the situation. Maintain the relationships — circle back around, touch base and update members of your network as opportunities arise and time passes. Make an obvious effort, it goes a long way — contacts will appreciate it!

Close out conversations and letters in a personal way. Address the person appropriately by the name they used when they introduced themselves to you. Mention the company’s name, when and where applicable, to customize the message.

Gratitude matters! Sending a thank-you note can make someone’s day! Your contact will appreciate the effort you are putting into maintaining a professional relationship.