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Spring 2010

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BY KEVIN MOE

Whether you are new to a job search or a seasoned employee seeking out new opportunities, the importance of networking cannot be understated. Done correctly, it’s the most effective way to land a new position. U.S. government statistics reveal that more than 60 percent of job hunters find work through friends, family members, and acquaintances.

HOW CAN YOU DO IT RIGHT? The Career Centers at the Carlson School offer these bits of information to remember when building your network:

INITIATE THE RELATIONSHIP

People can be terrified to ask people for help—it’s daunting to meet someone new and ask for guidance. Having the courage to initiate the connection is integral. “People are not going to beat down your door,” says Undergraduate Business Career Center Director Morgan Kinross-Wright. “You have to make the first step—95 percent of the people you’ll connect with want to help you.”

        Do your research and find out who they are and what they do. This is not about asking for a job. It’s more about building a network and asking such questions as: How did you get your start? What was valuable for you? People generally like talking about themselves and will be more than eager to answer these sorts of questions.

REMEMBER TO FOLLOW UP

“This is one of the most critical pieces of the networking process,” says Graduate Business Career Center Director Michelle Chevalier. “It’s also one that’s often missed. “A great connection won’t lead anywhere if you don’t follow up on the initial contact. For example, if you offer to connect someone with another person in your network, send an email making the mutual introduction. Networking is about relationship-building versus one-time transactions.”

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH YOUR OWN PERSONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Your network should include key people you can go to for guidance with difficult career decisions. A core group of advisors will serve as the inner sanctum of your network. And make sure to include different kinds of people to give you varied feedback.

USE CARLSONCONNECT AND OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS

CarlsonConnect is an excellent resource for keeping in touch with other alumni and with the school. This professional and social networking community is exclusive to Carlson School alumni and select staff members and allows you to reach across class years and geography to connect with anyone in the school’s alumni community.

        The LinkedIn social networking tool is also proving to be valuable. “We’re seeing a tremendous amount of success on LinkedIn,” Kinross-Wright says. “It has job postings that you won’t see anywhere else.”

MAINTAIN YOUR NETWORK

“You should keep networking intentionally as an alumnus, as it becomes more and more of a challenge after you graduate,” Kinross-Wright says, adding that it pays to strengthen your network with peers from your program, coworkers, other alumni, and professional associations.

        It’s also fine to seek career information and guidance at your company. Whether it’s a peer or supervisor, find someone at your place of business and ask for guidance to frame your networking.

        The point is to have a network in place before you need your network. Otherwise, you will be starting from square one when the time comes. You have to be intentional if you want a clear idea of how you’re going to propel yourself to what you want to do next. Ask yourself these questions:

        • To launch my next move, what do I need to build on?

        • How do I get to know the right people?

        If you continue to build your network, you’ll be ready for that next move.

ASSUME SOMEONE CAN’T HELP YOU

“Networking is often a multistep process,” says Chevalier. “Someone you meet at a reception may be married to a person who works in your ideal job at your ideal company. The point is to cast the net wide and focus on building a broad portfolio of contacts—even if it initially appears a person may not fit with your career goals.”

BURN BRIDGES

So you didn’t get something you wanted from somebody—be it a job, meeting, or a good reference. You have to remain gracious because you never know how or when your paths will cross in the future.

FORGET THAT NETWORKING IS A TWO-WAY STREET

It pays to approach a conversation or meeting with an attitude of “how can we help each other?” instead of “how can you help me?” Think about what you have to offer, as well as what you would like to get out of each meeting.

PUT QUESTIONABLE MATERIAL ONLINE

“Watch what you put on Facebook,” Kinross-Wright says. “You have probably seen news reports of people losing their jobs for what was found on their Facebook pages. Be aware that Internet content has a long shelf life.”

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR ADDITIONAL CONTACTS

Chevalier suggests always asking one question at the end of every networking conversation: Who else would you suggest I get to know? “We have endless stories of how asking this one question led to the contact that led to a great opportunity. It is the most powerful way to grow a network of highly relevant connections.”

IF YOU ARE EARLY IN YOUR CAREER, DON’T ASSUME YOU HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER

“Everyone has something to offer,” says Chevalier. “You don’t have to be sitting in the C-suite of your company to be able to provide valuable advice, connections, and opportunities to people who are your peers or are more or less experienced than you are.”

Don’t forget about the Carlson School Career Centers. “For undergraduate alumni, we offer an hour meeting each year,” Kinross-Wright says. “You can come in and meet with us, talk about your resume, and polish your interview skills. The whole meeting is done in the context of your career strategy.”

        Chevalier echoes those comments. “We are currently evaluating additional resources to help our graduate alumni connect with opportunities that exist in the marketplace,” she notes. “We hope our alumni will think of the Carlson School as a great place to start building a network or enhance an already strong network.”

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