3 Steps to Kickstart Your Networking Efforts

By: Rachel Wei // Feb 11, 2019

“It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase thrown around as casual advice, or given in earnest to young adults just starting their educational or professional careers. While I like to think that solid knowledge and skills matter to employers, it’s undoubtable that connections can be incredibly helpful in kickstarting any career.

When I first started hearing this phrase, my first reaction was to dismiss it. I can get where I need to be without maneuvering my way there, I thought. However, even with my limited experience in competing for leadership positions and acceptances into schools and clubs, I have discovered that having the right network is important. Once I acknowledged this fact, my next questions were “How do I go about networking then? Aren’t I too young? Who do I approach and how?”

Networking can be intimidating; some of us shudder at the thought of having to mingle with strangers for more than five minutes, while others may be excited to start, but not know where. Below are three steps to kickstart your networking efforts.

Step 1: Reach out to those around you

A great way to start networking is to pursue activities, jobs, and classes that you’re passionate about. The person next to you in yoga class, the professor of a science fiction seminar, or an organization sponsor can all be great potential resources and mentors. The key is to take the first step to get to know them. Although we can’t expect to get along with everyone, or to meet perfect mentors who have achieved our goals left and right, many impressive people who are passionate about their careers are in our immediate circles.

If you’re a bit too shy to start out networking in this way, consider going online and researching professionals in your area who are doing something you find interesting, or hold your dream job.

Step 2: Use career center/alumni networks

Another great option is tapping into your career center resources. Career centers can help connect you directly with alumni in fields of interest. Even if you’ve already graduated, consider checking out your school’s alumni network and using alumni as a starting base. Reaching out to alumni can be less intimidating because you already share fond memories of the same place and probably have many experiences in common.

Step 3: Request an informational interview

Most people really enjoy talking about themselves and their work, so giving them a phone call or shooting them an email asking for an informational interviews can be a great way to network remotely. At this point, you may be thinking “Rachel, these people are too impressive and high up to want to talk to me” and rolling your eyes a bit. However, I assure you, that those who are acing their careers love sharing their work with others. I had a biology professor who spent the first 15 minutes of every lecture discussing his lab research even though it was completely unrelated to what we were learning in class- he just couldn’t help it! Although some students in the 11 a.m. lecture were probably thinking about lunch and not paying much attention, that didn’t deter him. Imagine how happy these professionals would be to talk about their work with someone who is actually interested in it and maybe has done some background research as well.  

Are there any other helpful tips you guys have for networking?

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