By Dr. Jeff McKinney
Many career and job search experts report that 70% of jobs paying over 100K are filled through referrals – or networking. In addition, 80% of senior managers find that networking is crucial for a successful career. Unfortunately most people do not fully develop and utilize their networks.
Networking means developing a broad and diverse list of contacts, including friends, co-workers, alumni from your school, people you meet at social and business functions, other potential MBA students – the list goes on and on. People in your network are often able to give you advice, inform you about current openings, provide you opportunities for informational interviews, and introduce you to others. (Think of all the people in your current network and all the people they know!)
When most people hear the word networking, they often think of a cheesy walk around a business event waxing superficial with other attendees. While that can be true, it does NOT have to be that way. Find your authentic voice in the networking process by being yourself! When networking, be authentic to your personality and communicate in ways that work for you.
Below are some tips as you begin to develop (or enhance) your current level of networking.
- When you meet someone and request a business card, ALWAYS have a definitive next step to contact them. (Email next Monday or phone call on Friday?)
- Have a strategy to keep in touch with people in your network. For instance, invite them to coffee, lunch, etc., or send them an article or research paper that is relevant to their interests. Ask people for advice (If you were me…), offer to help people in your network, or send along a “what’s new message” (i.e. what is new in your world.)
- In networking situations, be able to produce a business card in 2-3 seconds.
- Always have an objective at a networking event. (e.g. I want to meet 5 people, set 3 meetings, and help others.)
- Schedule time every week to engage in networking activities. (Add it your calendar.) This provides a disciplined approach and ensures that you are networking every week.
- Develop a database to track your contacts, conversations, and items that require follow-up.
- Be sure to engage in peer-to-peer networking.
- Always have your key messages ready. Be able to talk about yourself and your interests.
- Follow up within 1 week after meeting someone that you want to stay in touch with.
- ALWAYS provide a thank you note when appropriate. (Handwritten notes can add a nice touch.)
Jeff McKinney is a Career Coach for the PTMBA program at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at The University of Maryland.