NOT AS SCARY AS YOU THINK
Let’s face it, for most people reaching out to a total stranger is not in their comfort zone. It can be intimidating and you might fear that you’ll be bothering the person. This is a mindset that needs to change.
During any job or internship search, it’s expected that you’ll network. The question you should ask yourself is: “what’s the worst that can happen?” The worst is that the person you’re reaching out to ignores you. While it is never fun to be ignored, it’s most often because the person is busy or simply forgot to follow up! No one is ever going to fault you or think you’re weird if you reach out to network, provided you are gracious and approach them in a professional manner.
You might be reluctant to reach out because you don’t want to ask for things. If you shift your thinking to the idea that you are connecting because you have a genuine interest in the person’s career trajectory, in the company they work for, or learning more about what they do, then networking feels less like pawing at the door and more like an opportunity to learn and engage. Please take a moment to read this article from Harvard Business Review, “Looking for Your First Job? Here’s What to Focus On.” Networking should never be simply transactional. It should be motivated by a desire to build a professional relationship – however limited it might be – with another person.
When someone takes the time to respond to a networking request, it’s crucial that you show gratitude by thanking them and letting them how much you appreciate their help, follow up, or whatever it is they did – even if they just responded with a “sorry, we do not have any openings right now!” You never know: if they like the way you handle yourself they just might keep you in mind, or refer you to someone who is also hiring. It is vital that you always follow up and express your appreciation. Believe me, it goes a long way.
WHO TO CULTIVATE
There are many different groups of people to cultivate through your networking:
-Former bosses, colleagues, professors, and advisors
-Classmates (if you’ve graduated, look into your Alumni club)
-Volunteer organizations you’ve worked with
-Professional organizations or associations
-Friends and friends of friends (ask for referrals or introductions)
-Groups you play sports with or clubs you belong to
-Contacts from your church, synagogue or mosque
Of course, this is just a partial list. The possibilities for networking are almost endless and are limited only by your imagination and willingness to reach out.
Let’s read on to the next topic: Leveraging Personal Connections