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You may not know exactly what career is best for you, but Networking is a sure way to make strides toward finding out. While putting yourself out there may sound intimidating, it begins with the people you already know—your family, friends and peers. Because you will be speaking, writing and e-mailing frequently, your communication skills are key to helping you focus and land the job you want. Here’s how to start the process.
Make Your List of Contacts
Start a spreadsheet in Excel or get yourself a notebook. Jot down the basics: the names of your friends as well as their parents who you probably met at social events, your neighbors, etc. Add professors and members of organizations you belong to. Even include the person who cuts your hair or the people you meet at the gym. The more people you connect with, the easier it will get to do it with confidence.
Gather Contact Information
Document the e-mail addresses and phone numbers for your contacts. Set daily goals for reaching out to them, like contacting five people a day.
The first method of communication is typically an e-mail. This way you’re not being intrusive. Here is a sample of a networking e-mail that you might send:
Hello! I received your contact information from [insert connection]. She mentioned you have an extensive background in working in [the field you might want to pursue].
I’m seeking [insert your goal]. Would it be possible to schedule a 20-minute phone call to hear about any advice you may have?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Next, don’t wait for them to contact you. Call and try to schedule a time to speak to the person. When you get them on the phone, take notes and truly listen to what they’re saying. The call should flow like a conversation. It’s not an interview, so you can relax. Every time you speak with someone, track the date and the information you gathered.
Expand Your Network Further
If you want to pursue a position in marketing, for example, reach out to your college’s career services office and request an e-mail directory of alums in that field. The more you network, the more you’ll begin to see that meaningful dialogue, advice, and connections will bring you closer to your goal.
Do Your Homework
Before you speak with a contact, research the company they work for by reviewing its web site to check for job openings. Your phone call or coffee meet-up will be completely different if an opportunity is available. If there is a job you want to go for, mention it to your contact and ask if she could submit your resume to the recruiting department; get the name of the person she submits it to so that you can follow up. If you’re not proactive in the process, no one else will be.
Adapted from "Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York" by Vicki Salemi, JIST.