By: Edvin Cortave, A student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as part of Heather Nelson's Service Learning class.
When it comes to networking, you don’t have to make it complicated. In fact, networking is very easy, and you do it every single day. It is nothing more than having a conversation with a friend, or someone you met through a friend, and it is all about meeting new people. It is as simple as starting up a conversation with someone at the grocery store while you are in line, talking to a coworker, or even meeting some of your parents’ friends over dinner. When you network you are introducing yourself to a potential employer or you may be talking to someone random that may end up becoming your best friend.
If you don’t think you have a job network, you are wrong! You are a part of an infinite number of networks. For example, a professor may be very connected with the job industry and can connect you to a possible employer. Just by talking to your professor about possible jobs, you are networking. I encourage you to make a list of people you know, and I can almost guarantee you the list will go on forever and ever.
A big tip is first and foremost knowing what you want and what type of career you are considering. Once you narrow down your list you can contact and begin networking. When you begin networking a lot of people get nervous and uncomfortable because they are stepping out of their shell, but this is what it takes. Think of it as a conversation you would be having with a parent, professor, sibling, family member, etc.… It is important to be yourself when you are networking. Be authentic and really get to know the person you are talking because after all, you are asking for advice and not a job. You don’t want the person to feel like they are being attacked and you are desperate for a job. In addition to that, listen to them and what they have to say because you might be able to provide a service or help in return. Whether they offer you a job or not, they will always keep you in the back of their mind and maybe someday they will remember you helping and recommend you for a position in the future.
It is important that you enjoy the process and gain the trust of the person you are talking to. Focus on building a relationship with them because after all, Rome was not built in one day. It is very likely that you won’t get a job with the first person you connect with, but they might know of a similar employer looking for a candidate just like you.
Another advantage that we have now is the power to connect online and meet people by as simple as sending an invitation to connect on social media. Do not be afraid to reach out to somebody out of the blue. People like to give advice and ultimately, everyone has been in your situation looking for a job. After connecting with someone regardless of it being over a video chat or in person, always remember to follow up. It shows that their time and your time was not wasted, and your interaction was more than just talking to someone and killing time.
A follow up can be as simple as saying how good it was to meet them and thanking them for their time and advice. You can also throw in any additional questions that you may have thought of after connecting with them. When you send a follow up, you are continuing to network and are one step closer to building a stronger relationship.
Ultimately, networking is not a one-way street, and you should look for opportunities to provide value to the other person and become an asset. It is all about having connections that can help you and it goes both ways, you should be able to help them as well.
I strongly encourage you to challenge yourself and talk to 3 random strangers this week and connect with them and get to know them that way when it comes time to look for a job, you are prepared and ready! Good luck.