Networking is one of the most successful ways to develop your career path. Connecting with those that you admire, know, and trust can open your eyes to trends, perspectives, and opportunities in your desired career field. Some of the ways you can network include:
- Visit faculty members during office hours to discuss potential research interests, opportunities, advice on graduate school, and more.
- Update friends, family, past teachers, and other personal contacts about job search plans and goals.
- Attend events relevant to your career or personal interests and engage the speaker or other attendees in conversation.
- Research potential alumni contacts in your field for informational interviews.
- Create and manage an online portfolio of your work, a blog, LinkedIn profile, professional Twitter account or professional Facebook presence.
Key Networking Rules
- Think long term
Networking relationships should not be one time interactions, but be established and maintained throughout your college years and career.
- The more you give, the more you’ll get
Networking is most effective when it has mutual benefits. For example, you may benefit from networking by getting a better understanding about a particular field of work or learning about a job or internship lead. An alum might benefit from getting an update about what's happening at UVA or to getting a chance to share their opinions about their work or field. Remember, do not just ask for a job - build a relationship.
- Quality over quantity
We have numerous opportunities to meet new people every day in person and online. These people don’t really become a part of our network unless we maintain and expand those relationships.
Who to Network With
This is ultimately up to you and your comfort level. You can network informally among peers and those in your immediate surrounding, but remember that it is acceptable to contact alumni, even ones you do not yet personally know, to request an informational interview for more formal networking. Of course, if you have an intermediary connection, mention their name with permission. Here are some online resources to find contacts:
LinkedIn.com is another useful database for career exploration and making career connections. The University of Virginia Alumni, Students and Friends Group on LinkedIn is another resource for finding out where UVA alums ended up after graduation and beyond. You can also use the “Find Alumni” option (under the “Connections” tab), and even narrow by major.
Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program provides students and their alumni mentors a structured means of initiating a professional relationship to discuss career interests and topics of professional preparation. Together, they develop goals for their regular meetings, during which the alumni mentors offer insights about their own undergraduate experiences, career progression and current work which supports mentees in navigating their own chosen career paths.
The Career Center can also provide you with ample opportunities for networking, including our Career Fairs, employer information sessions, and workshops.
- Build your base of contacts
Create a list of 10-30 people you may know. You may be surprised at how many useful contacts you already have! Be sure to list their professions as well. This may include: Friends; Family; Current and former schoolmates (fraternity, sorority, athletes, classmates); Professors, teaching assistants, school administrators, coaches; Past and current coworkers; People from your religious organization; Neighbors; Relevant career societies you might want to join that provide information about careers that are meaningful to you (e.g., Public Relations Student Society of America, National Society of Hispanic MBAs).
- Conduct industry research
Use CareerShift, Vault, Linkedin, and the community pages to find out information about the industry you’re interested in.
- Update your personal branding materials and social networking profiles.
One in three employers reject candidates based on what they find on their personal social media sites—so do not post anything online that you would not be okay with a potential employer seeing.
- Contact Your Network
Talk about yourself and your goals – the more you talk about your skills and interests, what you have done, what you would like to do and where you’d like to do it, the more likely people will begin to see links between themselves and you. They will begin to share information about their own backgrounds and who they know and where they have been.
Ask questions! Most people are flattered if you ask questions about what they do and how they got there, and if you ask for their opinions and advice.
- Follow up and continue the relationship.
Make sure to continue communicating so the experience is not limited to a one-time conversation, but instead grows into an established contact.
Using email for business communication is very common, so as a preemptive measure, it is advantageous for you to know the guidelines of email etiquette. Proper email etiquette shows that you not only understand and accept the means of business communication, but also that you will be able to represent the organization in a professional manner if hired. Here are some ways to sharpen your email etiquette:
Your actual email address says a lot about you. While you might have a personal email address that is fun and different, it's important to use a simple, professional one when emailing employers. If you need to make a new one for this purpose, it's always a good idea to incorporate your first and last name in a simple way. For example, JGibbs@emailaddress.com or RyanSelf@emailaddress.com.
A message subject is a great way to define your email and prepare the recipient for the context of your email. When defining the email in the message subject title, use as few as possible descriptive words (5-6 max) to highlight the main point of your email communication. An example is "Marketing Assistant Position #109387" or "Informational Interview Request on 12/23". Your email will be much more well-received with a descriptive yet concise message header than with none at all.
Body of Email
Sending an email is not the same as sending a hand-written letter to a good friend. While your friend may enjoy hearing a long winded description of what you’re up to and your goals for the future, an email to an employer should be brief and concise. State the main point of the email and try not to stray too far from that point throughout the email.
Just as with outlines and formal papers, an email needs to have a proper structure. Humans are essentially visual people, so by breaking up the email in to short paragraphs, the email becomes more easily readable by the recipient. No one wants to read a one paragraph email that goes on for two pages.
In a formal email, there should be no abbreviations, spelling mistakes, or poor punctuation. It is imperative to read, re-read, and re-read again the email before hitting send. Too often homophonic words like "they're," "there," and "their" end up in emails because the sender failed to re-read the email multiple times before sending it.
After you have re-read your email, it is important to analyze the tone of your writing. Because the words we write only account for a small amount of what we actually say, your tone in the email needs to be pleasant and polite. To start out on a positive note with your email, try using parts of your 30-second elevator pitch to give a brief yet representative description of yourself.
To keep from clogging someone else’s inbox, be sure to answer all questions asked of you. A good habit to get in to is to think of questions that could be asked in the future and then answer those questions in your email. An example is when an employer asks you what your major is and then, in another email, what your minor is. It is also wise to give options to your recipient when trying to plan something together.
Before the conclusion of the email, it is always a good idea to thank the employer or recruiter for their time and express sincere appreciation for the opportunity to interview. If you seem rude and automatically assume that the employer should cater to your requests, the employers will be less likely to put in a good word for you. Just remember, a few simple words ("Please" and "Thank you") go a long way.
Tidbits to Keep in Mind
Attachments are probably the most abused feature of emails. An unwanted attachment is not only annoying but also clogs up the recipients’ inbox. Only use attachments if the recipient specifically asked you for one (i.e. a resume). Emails with attachments may be flagged as spam, thus, the recipient never received.
As was mentioned above, your email should be read over at least twice before it is sent out. Keep in mind, however, that a response should be timely. Give yourself time to review the message but don’t wait too long and decrease the recipients reply time if it is a time-sensitive issue. Simply remember to read the email over and think the email over as well.
The most important, but often overlooked, bit of information to remember is to never give confidential information about yourself in an email. Once a piece of confidential information is out on the internet, it can most likely be found again, even if the email it was sent in is deleted. Examples of confidential information are social security number, salary, bank account number, or even discriminatory comments. Once it hits the web, it is viewable to almost anyone, so be careful with what you discuss via email.