The Art of Networking: 9 Standout Strategies

By: Erica Shaw – UofM Career Services Career Specialist

Networking is talked about a great deal in professional settings, but if you do not know what it is you will not understand the true game changer that it can be for you. Allow me toBusiness people shed a little light on what networking is, how to do it well, and why it is so important. 

WHAT IS NETWORKING? Networking is the process of building, and maintaining, connections and relationships. If this is something that you are not accustomed to and may find a little nerve-wracking, according to HubSpot 85% of jobs are filled through networking and CNBC says that 70% of jobs are never published publicly. These statistics make networking vital. Here are a few different ways that you can network.

People NetworkingBE READY. I encourage you to look at networking as a continuous event. Be open to meeting people any time you are out. Be prepared with your elevator speech. Your elevator speech is a quick and concise synopsis of who you are, what you do, and what you want to accomplish. Have your contact information available at all times, whether it is a physical card or a digital one. Digital contact information is quickly becoming the best way to exchange contact information on the go. Always have your resume/portfolio electronically ready. Opportunity favors the prepared.

LOOK THE PART. Show up the way you want to be seen. This is another part of being ready. When you go out, what do others see?  If you are going out in your pajamas you are not doing yourself any favors when it comes to being prepared to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity. While you do not need to be in formal attire whenever you leave your home, you do want to be dressed in a way that says you are a professional. Even in jeans and a t-shirt, ensure that you are put together.

LEARN THE ART OF CONVERSATION. Conversation, much like networking, is an art. The awesome thing about art is that there are many ways to go about it and you can make it yourpeople networking own. Know how to start and carry conversations. This only happens by doing it. Over and over and over again. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but with practice and assistance, you can become an amazing conversationalist. Enlist the support of those you believe have a magnetic presence and can seem to talk to anyone. Ask questions and put the information to use. Attend networking/professional events and listen to the conversations around you. What seems to work? What does not? Listen, learn, and practice.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA. Use professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to your advantage. The purpose of your LinkedIn page is to give employers a broader picture of who you are. If your LI is just a carbon copy of your resume, it Is not doing anything for you. Ensure you make connections and post.

ATTEND EVENTS. Find networking/social events in your desired industry. You can find these events by asking your network (LinkedIn, professors, mentors, industry professionals, social media, organizations, etc.). This is a way to learn more about the industry you want to be a part of and the people in it. It is also a great way to get your name out there. 

JOIN A PROFFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION. Being a member of a professional organization gives you a ready-made network that you can receive from and give to. Research organizations that are attached to the industries you want to be in and join them. Local, national, and international organizations are all fair game. The goal is to grow you knowledge, expand your reach, and find your tribe.

FIND A MENTOR. No one is an island. That is how the saying goes, and it is indeed true. A mentor is someone that is further up the path that you are traveling on. They can tell youpeople networking what they went through and how you can avoid the same mistakes and pitfalls. Your mentor is someone that is dedicated to assisting you in reaching your success. This should be someone you trust, can take instruction/criticism, and can be with honest with. Finding a mentor is not an easy task, but it is well worth it when you have the right one. Think of someone that is doing what you want to do, someone that is living out what you want your future to look like. Know that having a mentor does not mean that they are going to do all the heavy lifting for you. Be prepared to work, hard. Remember, someone has offered their time, energy, and resources to assist you. You must do your part.

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS. This is a strategy that few know about and even fewer use. When you want to learn more about the industry you want to work in and you do not yet have people networkinga mentor or know who to ask or even where to start, informational interviews and could give you some of the answers you need. Think of organizations or people that you would like to work for or with, contact them and ask if they would be willing to give you an informational interview. You can ask questions about what skills you would need for a particular industry, what are some of things that they did to get to where they are, what does a day in the life look like, who do they suggest you meet, and so many other key things that can get you started on your journey to your success. This is a great way to get your name out there and create a lasting impression. 

FOLLOW UP. This is often overlooked when networking and I want to bring attention to it, so you do not make the mistake of not following up. When you connect with others at eventspeople networking or just out and about, ensure that you follow up. Do not assume that the person will remember you and call you, even if they said they would. After connecting with someone, it is good practice to send a follow-up message (usually email, but text is fine if you do not have an email address) reminding them of who you are, how you met, and that you appreciated their time, information, or whatever they offered. Mention something specific that you discussed to ensure they remember and to show that you did as well. This leaves a great impression.

Networking, like conversation, is an art and it is one that you can truly make your own. I encourage you to take these tips and put them to use to begin realizing the success that you want for yourself. Know that you have a great support system at The University of Memphis through your professors, advisors, Career Services, and the many other resources available through the campus.

Good luck to you and happy networking!

Erica Shaw - UofM Career Services Career Specialist

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