If there is one thing that Bryant effectively communicates to its students, it is the value of networking. Networking is the distance between you and the interview for the job of your dreams. Knowing how to successfully network with alumni and those around you is a huge tool to have in your arsenal.
Networking is an art, not a science, and it’s hard to measure – or even define – its effectiveness. So naturally, we often have a love-hate relationship with it. Here are best practices for three common situations: at an event, online, and with mentors.
Never leave an event without a second date.
Sharing your knowledge about current trends in a specific industry or even your career hopes within that industry at an event could get you the next interview, job, or just pure glory. When the opportunity arises, many will welcome the exposure and give it their best shot, others will crumble in their own self-doubt. The effectiveness of offline networking is hard to measure, so how do you know when you have succeeded? Never leave without a second date.
It can be intimidating to enter a room full of professionals when going to an event. The best way to get a second date is to test the crowd until you find someone ‘datable.’ To get started, you can use simple ice breakers such as asking someone why they chose to come to the event or what they hope to get out of it. If the person isn’t a fit, you move on politely and repeat the process until you find someone that you’re interested in. You may not have the chance to spend as much time with that person as you would like, and that is who you ask for a second date.
Commit a few hours a week to social networking
One hour a week: This is the smallest amount of time any of us needs to spend consuming social networks. Remember to look people up on social networks before meeting them (LinkedIn + Twitter + their company website at the very least) and send a brief note to follow up afterward.
Four hours a week: In this amount of time, you can actively contribute to your community with social networking activities, such as sharing relevant articles and stories every day, organizing a monthly networking event, arranging for a speaker to come visit your club or organization, and even plan a weekly one-on-one networking lunch.
One day a week: By making a commitment to social network, you have the opportunity to raise your profile considerably in any community by: spending the day at a networking event, hosting an event, and making connections within your network that have the potential to turn into win-win partnerships.
Nurture five to ten strategic relationships
Successfully integrating online and offline networking can be extremely efficient in building tight relationships with a select group of people. This approach is most effective when limiting it to five to ten strategic relationships that we care to develop. Focus on these and be guilt-free about the other hundreds you could be managing.
A common misconception is that the length of time spent is most important in building relationships. However, it is the frequency and quality of the interaction that makes an impact. In order to maximize frequency, keep in touch regularly by sending a quick update on new career development or forward them a relevant article. As for quality, the professionals you pick to be your central focus will likely be busy, so they will be grateful if you save them time. Yet before reaching out to them, be clear about what you are asking them. Then decide whether a face-to-face meeting is needed, or if an email, or a phone call will do the job.
Regardless of the number of hours a week you spend on networking, make them productive and feel good about networking. It can get you places!