A combination of about 20 sophomores, juniors and seniors majoring in everything from business to English listened as I explained how professional networking is a lot like corporate campaign development.
Here were my three steps in program development/professional networking:
1. Planning (Research & organization)
I explained that on a broad level planning means figuring out what industry is most important to you. Tactically, however, research and organization means completing your due diligence. Before a job seeker can even begin sending out cover letters, he or she must find basic company information and contacts and create a progress table listing:
- Companies I want to work at
- Companies I've spoken to (interned, informational interviews)
- Companies I need to speak to
- Companies I've applied at
2. Implementation (Network, informational interview, Twitter, Internship)
I explained that implementation on an individual level lets people know you exist. Job seekers need to have experience- volunteer or paid- to demonstrate to potential employers that you have the capacity to work hard and learn quickly. The best way to find any work opportunity is by Tweeting, interviewing (others) and networking.
An easy first step is by listening through Twitter. Individuals can learn a lot about what industry leaders are saying and considering just by following the links that people post. There are helpful discussions like #hcsm and #journchat for professionals who want to connect with others in a particular area of interest. Once you find the professionals, attend a local Tweetup to meet face-to-face.
Informational interviews are the most valuable face-to-face time you can spend with professionals. Divide your 30-minutes (no more than that) into three areas: asking about the professional's background, asking about the company they work for, and asking about the industry as a whole. Always inquire about how you should be preparing for your career today.
Join local associations or social networks (like Biznik) and attend events. To me, this is 'invested networking' because you learn from a presentor and get to mingle with professionals interested in the same topics you are.
3. Evaluation (Follow up. Forever.)
I explained that following up doesn't mean just one thank you a day later, but rather relationship development on a quarterly basis. Follow your contact's business in the media and congratulate him/her when something good happens, subscribe to their corporate newsletter and then comment, recognize holidays, events and occasions. At the very least send contacts a status report on your search.
As it turns out, I love teaching adults. The class was a blast and I learned a lot from the experience. I may not be a networking expert, but I was happy to share the tactics I use.