two people talking in front of a windowWhen it comes to exploring career paths or finding jobs and internships, your network can be a useful tool. It’s important to not only maintain the contacts you have, but continue making new connections as well. You can do this by attending networking events or connecting with others online through the Forever Buffs Network, Handshake or LinkedIn to set up informational interviews

Networking can sometimes feel awkward or intimidating, but it’s helpful to remember that it’s just a conversation and a chance to get to know someone new. Here are some tips for feeling more comfortable with networking. 

Be intentional 

Before you approach a networking opportunity, think about what you’d like to get out of the experience and share that with those you’re reaching out to. For example, if you’re exploring career fields and aren’t currently looking for a job, let your contact know. This could sound like, “I’m learning more about the career field of public health. What advice would you give someone in my shoes looking to try out the field?” If you’re meeting with someone in a specific organization because you plan to apply for an open position, be sure to tell them about the type of position you are looking for. 

Sharing your intentions and asking the right questions can help make the most of your conversation. 

Think of questions in advance

Before a networking event or an informational interview, do some research to prepare for your conversation. This can help you ask more meaningful questions and avoid ones that can easily be answered by searching online.

Think of questions to ask that genuinely interest you and would allow you to continue the conversation. An example of this could be, “I’m really curious how you got started in this field as a philosophy major! How does your liberal arts background serve as an asset to your job?”

As you prepare questions to ask, make sure they are open-ended questions. Questions that start with is, are, can, did, will and have are typically close-ended questions and can stall a conversation. For example, instead of asking, “Is your job challenging?” you could ask, “What are the greatest rewards and challenges in your career field?” 

During your conversation, be sure to make direct eye contact, smile and communicate your questions clearly. As your conversation wraps up, thank them for their time and ask if you can stay in touch. This could sound like, “I really appreciate your taking the time to chat with me more about your career path. Could we connect on the Forever Buffs Network to stay in touch?” 

Follow up and stay in touch

Ensure the professional contact that you met with stays in your network by following up with a thank you note. Thank them again for taking the time to speak with you and mention something that you discussed that you found of value. Additionally, connect with them on the Forever Buffs Network or LinkedIn to stay in touch. 

The people in your network can provide different levels of support while you’re searching for jobs, whether it’s sharing job postings, proofreading your resume or practicing for interviews. Consider touching base with your contact closer to graduation to update them on your career plan and job search timeline. 
For more tips, check out weekly workshops with Career Services. Networking: The Basics and Beyond occurs on Tuesdays and will help you learn how to network in a genuine way and take networking to the next level.