Research tells us that between 60-80% of jobs are found through personal relationships, which reinforces the importance of business networking. Business networking is the process of developing and maintaining quality relationships that will help empower you to achieve your professional goals. It is a vital aspect of one’s career development yet many people struggle in this area because they do not fully understand the real purpose of networking. When people hear the word “networking,” they immediately jump to the conclusion that it has something to do with meeting people and getting their numbers or email addresses so they can beg this individual to give them a job offer. However, the real purpose of networking is being able to build strong relationships so you can ultimately be presented with business opportunities when the time is right. Since networking is an essential skill for all college students, Morgan Vazquez, NSHSS Fellows Program President and Vice President of Campus Strategy & Pipeline Development at BNY Mellon, shares some best practices:
First, be helpful to others even when there is no obvious or direct benefit to you. While it would be nice if they helped you out as well, networking is a two-way street. You must first prove to people that you can provide value to the company before asking them for a favor. Don’t rush the process of developing rapport. Although you can establish immediate rapport with simple techniques like smiling or being courteous, a strong rapport develops over time. Remember that networking is all about building relationships with people – NOT about being offered a job on the spot. Once someone feels connected with you, they will naturally want to find out more about how they can help you succeed. You should respect others, listen carefully and take time to learn about them because it’s far more important to understand their needs before you tell them about your needs. It’s your responsibility to understand the people in your network by recognizing where they are coming from and what’s important to them. Once you fully identify with an individual, you can then take the next step of asking them to help you with your job search.
Second, develop a 30-second infomercial about yourself, and practice it until it becomes spontaneous and natural. If you can grab the attention of a potential employer at a networking event with your 30-second infomercial, you have opened the door for asking more in-depth questions. Within the first few seconds of your infomercial, selling yourself gets much easier because with the right 30-second speech, you no longer have to find a way to awkwardly introduce yourself. Your 30-second infomercial is a short statement that conveys the contributions or experiences you can bring to an organization. The infomercial should consist of a title that clearly describes what you do, your top 3 or 4 job-specific skills, what skills you want to continue to use in the future, and what attributes and qualities set you apart from other individuals.
Example: My name is Morgan Vazquez and I am a Vice President of Campus Strategy & Pipeline Development at BNY Mellon in New York City. I am eager to round out and deepen my knowledge and experiences that will allow me to become a respected senior HR leader within Corporate America, and will certainly embrace all opportunities and challenges with an open mind. I have always worked best under pressure and in fast-paced environments, and will focus on career opportunities that allow me to use my natural talents, including problem-solving, decision-making, persuading others, and public speaking.
Third, focus on knowing the right people instead of the most people. There is no need to give your business card out to every person you see at a meeting. Instead, concentrate on finding people that have relevance to you and your future career goals. A great way to find out about a person is by asking questions, especially open-ended questions related to their previous or current job position. Asking open-ended questions will not only allow you to better understand how a person can help you, but it will also show this individual that you are interested in what they have to say. As time goes on, you can decide if the interests that you share with someone are worth pursuing further, but ALWAYS remember – it is better to have 10 people who know you very well, than 200 people who don’t even know your name.
The fourth tip is take initiative by following up with new people. One or two days after meeting someone for the first time, follow up with a brief e-mail or phone call. Following up with a relevant conversation helps to anchor your previous interaction in their mind and displays more personality than just sending an email that says, “It was nice to meet you.” Gratitude is sorely lacking in today’s business world, so expressing your appreciation to individuals you meet is just another building block in cultivating a relationship that will lead to increased job referrals and career opportunities. Thanking others every chance you get will help you stand out from the crowd, and will show a potential employer that you are willing to go above and beyond to achieve success.
And last but not least, go beyond your industry by connecting with people on a variety of levels from a wide range of areas. By growing your network outside your specific area, you become more valuable to people in any organization. With a broad network, you will have greater opportunities and advantages over people who only networked with individuals directly within their company. Don’t hesitate to network with someone who has no obvious connection to your ambitions – this new contact may be able to give you relevant names of his or her friends and colleagues. Whether you want to believe it or not, the popular phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” often is the case when recent college graduates land a full-time job.
And there you have it – 5 ways you can start successfully networking. Networking is a valuable strategy for getting a lead on a job, gathering information or just getting your name out to potential employers so never underestimate its importance! You can even start networking today by becoming more involved with the NSHSS organization and your peer members!