Center for Career and Professional Development

Networking

WCU student networking

 

Networking has become increasingly crucial in today’s ever-changing professional workforce, both in landing your first post-collegiate job and in promoting your personal brand for advancement.  Since you never know when you might need it, it makes sense to keep your networking skills and online presence in place and up to date.

Your career network can include any contact you have had thus far and any contact or company with which you wish to connect.  When starting your career networking foundation, start with people you already know – your friends, family, professors, past employers. Then, branch out and join groups which match your career and personal goals – professional organizations within your field, WCU alumni groups, individual companies for which you may wish to one day work, even online groups which share your personal interests and hobbies.  

Once you have started your network, be sure to connect with and help those who are trying to network with you, too. 

Networking infographic

Source: Forbes



Networking Prep

Before you just “dive in” and begin your network, make sure you do the following:

  • Clean up your online presence.  Social media is fast becoming the #1 way to network, and companies routinely search for those who are apply to positions or those they may want to recruit for positions which are opening in the future.  Take out any inappropriate or potentially offensive material. You want to convey a positive and professional image.
  •  Develop your brand. Potential employers and networking contacts want to know who you are both personally and professionally.  Make it easy for them by developing your personal brand and displaying that information clearly and concisely.
  • Promote Yourself. Networking is all about putting yourself out there.  Promote yourself to industry-specific professional affiliations and be active on those forums or boards. LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for these affiliations. Check out these tips on creating a successful LinkedIn profile.
  • Know your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is simply a short intro about yourself. Know what you want to say about yourself and how you want to say it. Check out our Professional Handbook, which covers how to create an elevator pitch.
  • Think of questions. Think of questions to ask those with whom you want to network.
  • Prepare your resume. Make sure your resume is fresh and up-to-date and free of errors.  Be prepared with your resume to give to potential employers or others who may want to pass it along. (And be sure to make an appointment with the Center for Career and Professional Development to review your resume and/or cover letter, or check out our Professional Handbook on resume writing tips and examples).


Start Networking

Because the Internet plays such a crucial role in connecting with others, you will want to start there to begin your networking foundation.

  • Start with who you know – especially those in your field.  Your instructors are a wonderful resource with connecting to important people in your field. Make sure to get to know your professors so that they feel comfortable passing your name along. Don’t neglect others who are not in your field, though – they may also have contacts with whom they can connect you.
  • Move on to your extended network. Once you’ve added those you know, move on to introduce yourself to those you may not. Browse the contact list on those you do know first to see if they know anyone who may be helpful to you. Be sure to ask your contacts for referrals for these people.
  • Join relevant online groups. Be an active member on online professional groups. Offer your insights to questions or articles they may post, but be sure to stay away from controversial topics. Reach out to others in these groups by posting thought-provoking questions, too! Asking for advice, referrals, or information – especially from the WCU Alumni pages – is also a great way to connect with people online.
  • Join company specific sites. This is especially important if you already know of a company for which you’d like to work.  More than ever, recruiters are using social media to promote their company and career opportunities. Get to know the company and its employees through their own online social media groups.  Connect with them via their LinkendIn page, become a “fan” of their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or other social networking platform.    


Build Connections

As you network online, build long-lasting connections by:

  • Communicating like a Pro. Smart communication skills aren’t just for passing your classes.  Use professional formatting and tone when communicating with your network.  Make sure you proofread everything you publish. 
  • Asking thoughtful questions (Not just “Are you hiring?”).  Recruiters and companies are more than happy to share information about their industry, whether they’re currently hiring or not. Don’t be afraid to ask thoughtful questions about the company or field and ask for their insights.
  • Keeping the line open. Always be sure to thank them for their time in answering your questions and ask for continued contact. Send a formal thank you letter or email and ask if you can contact them again in the future as additional questions arise. 
Office of Web Services