Let’s face it. When most of us hear the word networking, our palms get clammy and our hearts beat a bit faster.
It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert: chances are, the idea of making small talk with complete strangers in the hopes of landing a job, internship or simply making connections for the future can be a little intimidating.
I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine—we ALL have a network. The kicker is that many of us fail to recognize those closest to us as a valuable resource. Your professional network can include everyone you know.
We ALL have a personal network of friends, family and extended family that we can tap into for information. Chatting with Aunt Kathy is much less intimidating than trying to impress a CEO at a stuffy networking event.
Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to utilizing the network you already have. True story: I landed both of my major summer internships through personal connections.
Step 1: Make a List (Check it Twice)
In order to take full advantage of your personal network, you first need to figure out who constitutes your network.
Take out a piece of paper, write your name in the center (that’s right, we’re going back to elementary school) to make the beginnings of a tree diagram. Each line you draw as you create the diagram should connect you to someone you know (friends, family, etc). This constitutes your first level of connections.
Step 2: Time for Some “Recon”
Hopefully, by now, you’ve created a Linkedin profile. If you haven’t, I urge you to check out Career Services’ AWESOME workshops. Don’t have many connections yet? No worries! Use this opportunity to connect with the people you do know, such as professional acquaintances and family members.
After you connect, take a peek at their connections. (Visit Career Services or check out this resource if you need help.) Search for companies or jobs that you are interested in finding more about and add any names you discover to your tree diagram. These names become your second level connections.
Step 3: The Art of the Informational Interview
Now that you have a good idea of the people you already know (and who they know), seek out opportunities to meet with a few of them. In other words, carry out an informational interview! Keep in mind that informational interviews don’t have to take place in a traditional office setting. They can be a one-on-one at a coffee shop or a casual conversation at an upcoming family dinner or reunion.
Chances are, your family is going to want an update on how school is, what you are majoring in, future plans, etc. Hone in on those who made it on the tree diagram you created earlier—I won’t judge if you bring it along for reference—and start by asking this one, simple question:
“Can you suggest the names of two or three other people I might contact for more information? May I use your name when contacting them?”
I am 100% certain they will happily respond with advice for you, and potentially connect you with people they know (second-level connections) who can give you even more advice. Immediately after you chat with a family member or friend, write down any names they drop into your tree diagram, this time, connecting their name to the connection’s name. Make sure to write down any relevant information that goes along with the connection (where they met, if they work together, etc.)
Step 4: Follow Up With a Thank You Note
By now, your tree diagram should be full of first level and second level connections. Look at you, master networker! Ready for the next step? It’s an important one.
Follow up with a thank you note! I prefer hand-written, but a personal email will work as well. Include information about the conversation you had and the contacts they mentioned. Taking the initiative shows that you valued the conversation you had and that you are serious about taking their advice.
Step 5: You did it! (But don’t stop.)
Look at you, networking ninja! That wasn’t so bad, right? You aren’t done yet, though. Use this newfound networking confidence to continue building your network outside of your friends and family through informational interviews with your second level connections
You don’t have to go for the top right away. Start by seeking out young professionals in your area of study or even UP alum, who will most likely be willing to talk with you.
My best advice? Take advantage of EVERY opportunity you have to network with your classmates and professionals on campus. Join clubs in your area of study. Listen to guest speaker and attend career events on campus. Here are a few I’m planning on attending:
Wednesday, November 5th at 4:15pm in Career Services
Wednesday, November 12th at 4:15pm
- College To Career (a career panel hosted by Her Campus Portland)
Wednesday, November 12th from 6-7pm in BC 163
- Lyndy Davis (UP alum and HP marketer, hosted by UPMG
Thursday, November 13th from 6-7pm in Franz Hall 214
Whatever you do decide to do to expand your network, do it with confidence!
- About Hanna Herrin. Hanna Herrin is a senior at the University of Portland, due to graduate in May with a B.B.A in Marketing and a minor in Communications. Hanna is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Portland and co-president of the UP Marketing Group. She has taken internships with Outerwall Inc., the World Conference on Science and Soccer, Davis Elen Advertising and the Pamplin School of Business. She hopes to pursue a career in Public Relations after graduation. Connect with Hanna on Linkedin, Twitter or through her personal website.