Networking is one of the best methods to supplement your internship or job search. If you do it right, you will increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams, and expand your group of friends along the way. “The best way to get a job now is the same as in the ’70s and the ’80s—word of mouth,” explains Adam Cobb, professor of management at The Wharton School. So, here is a how-to guide and some tips to get you started:
What is Your Objective?
Be clear about what you hope to gain from each interaction, whether it be your first LinkedIn request, or face-to-face meeting. Researching the industry you are interested in, and clarifying your career goals and values will be beneficial as you start building your network. Here are more detailed guidelines on networking.
Make a Contact List
These are your family, friends, former employers, professors, TAs, classmates, coaches, etc. If you are finding it difficult to get the list going, begin by reconnecting with old friends on Facebook. Contact the people on your list, and let them know what you're looking for, and how you're hoping they can help you. Remember that you are not asking for an internship or job! You are asking for their guidance and suggestions. You will get more responses if you are sincere and view each communication as a way to build a relationship, rather than as a transaction.
Finding New Contacts
- Thayer School of Engineering group in LinkedIn: online networking group
- MentorNet: e-mentoring site that partners undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and untenured faculty in engineering, science and mathematics with experienced professionals in their fields
- Find out about members of professional associations to which you may belong (e.g. IEEE, SAE, AIAA)
- Attend virtual (or on-campus events, when available), conferences and meet-ups where company representatives will be present.
- STEM Mentoring at Dartmouth
- Check in with Thayer Career Services about other mentorship opportunities, such as those offered by the Thayer Dean's Council
Create a Networking-Management System
Whether you prefer Excel or Evernote (a software application that helps you remember tasks) staying organized ensures you avoid mistakes like sending a follow-up email twice, or worse, not sending one at all.
Make the Appointment
While meeting in person is best, a phone conversation is a great start. When initiating contact, make sure you introduce yourself professionally and succinctly.
Say Thank You
Acknowledge the time, guidance and suggestions your contact shared with you.
Send periodic, short-and-sweet updates, a snail mail holiday card, or articles that they may find interesting with a personal note attached. These quick exchanges show that you are in it to build the relationship (perhaps, one of your contacts will become a mentor), not to use them for their expertise and connections.
- Make the most of every interaction:
Before you hang up the phone or leave any meeting, ask a) How can I help you? b) Is there anyone else you recommend I contact?
- Do your homework:
Don’t ask the painfully obvious.
- Repeat this mantra:
“This is about relationships, not about business.” When it comes to making and maintaining friendships, warmth, curiosity and kindness are key.
- Do them a favor:
If you come across something that would be helpful to a contact, just do it and don’t ask for anything in return.
- Buy organic:
Be patient, and allow your friendships to grow organically. One of the biggest networking mistakes is escalating the relationship too quickly, which can come off as desperate.
- Treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy.
- Pleasant persistence:
Don’t expect people to call back in two days, but don’t be afraid to reach out again. Keep in mind that some people won’t respond, and that is okay!
Questions to Ask Alumni
For Career Exploration Inquiries
- What projects or tasks are performed in a typical week in this job?
- What would be the top 5 skills needed to be a top performer in this job?
- What kind of credentials, education, training, prior experience are needed?
- How was your major related to your current work?
- What was your career path that led you to your current position?
- What was the most significant contributing experience/factor to your being in this type of work?
For Job Search Inquiries
- Which departments within your organization tend to hire (interns/entry-level)? Is there someone in these departments you would recommend I contact?
- What time of the year does your employer typically look for (interview) hires?
- What made you choose this employer?
- How would you describe the culture of the organization?
- Can you talk about the kinds of projects that new hires have worked on this year in your department?
- What type of professional development/ongoing training is available?
For Graduate School Inquiries
- How did you decide on this program and college/university?
- How competitive is the process of getting into the college/program you attended?
- How would you compare this program to other colleges of similar caliber?
- Which key qualities did this college/university look for in candidates?
- Did your Dartmouth education prepare you fully for applying to this program? How would you describe the faculty advising and mentoring that was available?
Before sending any letter, make sure it includes:
- How you learned of the individual, and why you are specifically interested in talking to him or her. (Tip: highlight a similarity between you and the individual.)
- A little about you (Tip: pique his or her interest.)
- How you will follow up (Tip: be gracious and sensitive of your contact's time.)
If you are sending the request via e-mail, we recommend using “Dear First Name Last Name” (i.e.: Dear Ray Garcia,)
If you are sending the request via LinkedIn, keep in mind that you have 200 character limit. Your message should introduce yourself, indicate why you are writing, and kindly request some time to chat. Short and sweet is the key here!
If you are reaching out to Dartmouth alumni, we recommend that you utilize their preferred mode of contact. We recommend that you do not include a resume in the first correspondence. If they are interested in reviewing your resume, they'll ask.
If you are cold calling, don't forget to include how you found their contact information.
Here are some sample questions to ask and sample of email outreach when writing a networking letter.
Questions? Make an appointment with us via Handshake; we can help you craft the right networking letter.