What is networking?
Networking is building relationships with professionals, especially in your career field of interest. Connecting with these professionals can help you make yourself known in the industry you want to work in, gather career information, and learn about job opportunities.
Networking is a continuous process, and you will gradually connect and maintain relationships with many professionals throughout your career. College is a great place to get started because most professionals enjoy meeting students. Building a network early can help you find internship and job opportunities. It is common for people to feel intimidated when they start networking, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.
Why should I network?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. It’s important to connect with people to learn about opportunities through the “hidden job market.” Also, if you build positive relationships through networking, you are putting yourself at a competitive advantage. Networking is also a good way to show employers that you have strong professional skills such as initiative, persistency, and passion for the industry. It is by far the most effective job search strategy.
How can I build my network?
- Start with friends and family and ask for their referrals. Even if you don’t know any professionals personally, your family and friends may know people who are working in companies and industries in which you have an interest.
- Ask faculty. They can give you insight into industries as well as provide referrals to alumni who are working in your field of interest.
- Use the Professional Networking Database and employer directory on the GoldPASS website to reach out to employers and alumni. These professionals host events and make their contact information available because they want to connect with students.
- Use professional networking sites such as the LinkedIn website. Connect with people you know and see who they are connected to. Join groups such as the “U of M Alumni Association,” “College of Science and Engineering,” and groups related to your career interests. Keep in mind that people on LinkedIn have chosen to be on a networking website, so it is appropriate to contact people you don’t know. Just be sure to communicate with them why you want to connect and keep all communication professional.
Am I just “using” employers?
Networking is a very common practice among professionals, and most people are happy to talk with students about their career and industry. Networking should be viewed as a reciprocal relationship. When a person refers a strong candidate, it helps to enhance their professional reputation. It is also important to maintain ongoing relationships with your network because you never know when you will be in a position to help others.