Networking can serve as a valuable strategy at each and every stage of your career development.

What is it?

In short, it’s simply connecting with people, your most valuable resources at every phase of your pursuits.People can help you to assess your skills and interests; to explore industries and work functions and theirintersection with academic disciplines; to learn about challenges and opportunities, the skills required, thejargon, and the trends in specific fields; and they can help you to focus your career or job options. By talking topeople, you get information, advice, and referrals. And, since nearly 80 percent of all jobs are neveradvertised, you learn about opportunities that otherwise would go unnoticed. The more contacts you make,the more likely you are to uncover the hidden job market.

Types of Networking

When you’re networking for information, advice, or referrals and possible job leads, it’s most likely you’ll beconducting that activity in one of three ways: (1) through purposeful personal contact done by phone, email,business letter, online networking sites, or in person; (2) at a function or an event designed for “schmoozing” ormingling with other professionals; or (3) by happenstance. In all cases, you’ll want to be ready. You may besurprised, for example, at the number of internships secured on flights back to school after holiday breakthrough conversations with the stranger in the next seat. So, whether you are working a room at a social event,initiating a purposeful personal contact with someone, or seizing an opportunity that presents itself, you shouldfind the tips below useful.

Making Personal Contact

Before you actually start making personal contacts, do some homework. Begin with yourself. What is yourpurpose? Do you have a career or industry focus, or are you seeking contacts who might serve as resources tohelp you discover your interests and desires? Follow your hunches about the industries and work functions thatyou think would most interest you, and do some background research that might enrich any conversation orexchange you will have with the people who are actually in that line of work. Continue your homework afterdefining your purpose and researching industries or work functions by beginning to build your network ofcontacts, which includes learning as much as you can about the people you will be contacting.

Reed’s office ofcareer services has a variety of resources that can help you get focused in all of these areas.

Start to build your network by listing your natural acquaintances and contacts:·Family and their friends· Friends and their families· Reed Alumni Career Network· Volunteer affiliations (e.g., clubs, organizations, church, etc…)· Professors, advisers, coaches· Former or present work colleagues· ProfessionalsAsk yourself, “Who do I know?” and add anyone who comes to mind to your list.

Your goal at this stage is toconnect with your natural network to discover not only if they have direct advice but also if they know of othersmore closely affiliated with your interests.Let them know your interests and aspirations. The more people who know of your interests, the greater thechance that doors will open for you. Your chances of being in the right place at the right time are increasedwhen you are attentive to this fact. It’s sometimes called “managing your luck.”Before you make contact (with either your natural network or new people discovered through them), prepareyour introduction or “elevator speech.” This step will also be useful for those unpredictable moments whenyou are presented the opportunity to connect with someone new (e.g., on the flight home or at a social function).


Dear Dr. Griffin,Professor D. Owl suggested that I contact you regarding your research. I will soon graduate from ReedCollege with a degree in political science and philosophy. After working this past summer as a legalresearcher for a law firm in Anchorage, Alaska, I’m back in Portland to finish my studies and hope to find a jobwith a local civil rights organization or public policy group. Would you have a few minutes to share any adviceor ideas with me?

*Elevator speech: who, what, why in 30 seconds.Hello (person’s name). My name is (your name). I was referred to you by (referral name). I am interested inlearning more about (material science, web development, whatever). I wonder if you would have a moment toshare with me any advice, ideas, leads, and referrals.*(Taken from The Foolproof Job-Search Workbook, by Donald Asher, a Reed alumnus, who has given us permission touse it).

Expand your networkAs you meet alumni and other people, focus on shared interests and common traits. Find parallels between yourexperiences and theirs. Do you share similar interests such as social justice, the environment, orentrepreneurship? Have you studied the same subjects or under the same professors? Identify and accentuatethe commonalities.As you develop a clearer picture of your work or career plans, you can begin to broaden your network ofcontacts beyond those closest to you. How? As before, people are your best sources. If you can get two to fournames from each of your natural contacts, your network will have expanded exponentially. When asking forreferrals to other contacts, be specific: “Do you know anyone whose work responsibilities include (duty A,duty B, or duty C)?” or “Can you suggest anyone in this industry or field whom I should contact?” followed by“May I use your name as my referral source?” In some cases, your original contact may even be willing tointroduce you.

Other sources for expanding your network include professional associations, many of which have studentmembership rates, BLOGS or other online networking sites, newspaper articles or other media features, andformal networking programs or events such as the Reed Alumni Career Network or special events or paneldiscussions on campus that feature alumni or other professionals. Most important: engage yourself; contributein your industry of interest. This means volunteering your time and skills to individuals or organizationsactively working in the industry of your choice. Establish working relationships with others in the industry andfind more contacts. Professional conferences are staffed by volunteers who can position themselves to meetyoung and senior professionals, for example.

At this point in your cultivation and nurturing of contacts you may be ready use the more formal tool called theinformational interview. You may have been employing it already, since you have been talking with others andgathering information to sharpen your focus and expand your network.




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