There are proven ways to effectively make professional connections, both online and in person. The good thing about the in-person part? It gets you comfortable with one-on-one communication, which will come in handy when it comes time to interview. To help you navigate, we have collected helpful information on how to connect.
Initial Outreach to New Contacts
When approaching new contacts, it is important to be respectful of their time.
Start with email. Since most professionals are quite busy, email is the preferred mode for initial contact in most cases.
Be clear.Always indicate how you obtained the individual’s information. Mention your interest in learning about their profession or organization. In your subject, include how you were referred. In the body, ask if they have time to speak to you by email, phone or in person.
Lend context.Provide a brief overview of your background so that a new contact can best tailor their advice. Do not attach your resume unless you are asked for it.
Manage phone contact. If phone contact is necessary, be prepared to leave a short voicemail. Even if you are seeking a job or internship, emphasize a desire for advice.
Arrange an in-person meeting. See if you can meet at the contact’s place of employment, so you can do on-the-ground research.
Diversify your outreach approach.
From one-on-one informational interviews to large events, there are many ways to grow your network. Using one or more of these techniques can power you with insight. It may feel strange initially — or maybe you’re a natural — but the more you network, the easier it gets.
Social Media for Networking
As a student, you are probably using social media already. Most students have a Facebook page, and more and more are using Twitter and other sites to connect. As you begin building a professional network, it’s time to take a step back and think about social media and how you use it as a networking technique.
Grow Your Professional Network Socially
Nowadays, just about every individual and organization has a social presence. This makes it a powerful resource for career and network development. While your previous use of social media may have been more — well, social — in nature, that is only the beginning of what these platforms have to offer.
- Join LinkedIn.From alumni search tools to networking among professionals, LinkedIn provides numerous tools for young professionals.
- Build your network as you go. Fellow students, professors, family, friends and others can be valuable connections down the road.
- Find organizations you are interested in.With minimal effort, you can learn a great deal about an organization’s products, services, news and culture.
- Identify thought leaders.Analyze the topics and trends. Follow them and make an effort to connect. Be sure you are clear on why you are reaching out.
- Share content of your own.Your interactions with organizations can be passive (following status updates and tweets) and active (replying, re-tweeting or starting or joining conversations). Wise engagement can help you get noticed. Just be sure natural enthusiasm doesn’t border into the realm of spam.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
If a potential employer or new connection visited your Facebook page, would you be happy with what they found? Keep your profile and interactions professional. That means it may be time for an upgrade or the removal of certain posts or photos. When connecting with someone you have not met personally, your profile will shape their early impressions.
While powerful connections are often formed on a one-to-one basis, there are a number of events at the University and beyond that offer fast-track access to numerous potential contacts. From attending career fairs to exploring industry gatherings, putting yourself out there is a smart career strategy.
Understand the Format
Your self-presentation style at networking events should be professional. While there may be instances where a slightly more casual approach is appropriate — such as a student meeting — you want to be remembered for your career-oriented style.
- Dress professionally. Not sure what “business casual” means? Err formal.
- Research first. Before networking events, look into organizations and fields of interest. This drives productive conversations and can impress new contacts.
- Stay in touch. Gather contact information to follow up on later. Ideally, mention something you learned from them to establish a connection when you do.
Find & Attend Networking Events
Unlike a personal contact request, large career events enable you to meet many people at once and gain multiple perspectives.
Start with Vanderbilt.
We sponsor events throughout the year, from behind-the-scenes alumni career presentations to networking events. Student groups related to your interests can connect you with other Vanderbilt students as well. Part of planning your career is defining what interests and motivates you.
Expand your search.
From company-sponsored meet-ups for young professionals to large conferences and events for specific industries, attend events that connect to your interests. Many conferences have student rates.
Seeking other ideas? Meet with us to discuss your interests and devise a customized approach.