Networking is the key to professional success.
Build Your Professional Network
According to Forbes (2020), approximately 80% of job are filled through networking. So, it's time to get started!
Why Should You Network?
- Access to Opportunities and Referrals: A professional network provides access to internships, job openings, and collaborations.
- Career Advancement: Networking connects business majors with mentors, leaders, and potential employers for guidance and promotion.
- Knowledge and Insights: Interacting with professionals offers valuable industry knowledge and insights.
- Learning from Others' Experiences: Networking allows business majors to learn from others' successes and avoid common pitfalls.
- Support and Guidance: A network provides support, advice, and feedback during challenges.
- Industry Insights and Trends: Stay informed about industry developments, emerging markets, and changing customer demands.
You might not realize it, but you've already started this process! Once you've identified
members of your professional network, you can focus on cultivating those relationships.
Your professional network might include:
- Alumni and guest speakers in your classes
- College and University leadership and staff
- Current/Previous employers
- Former coaches
- People you know on a more casual basis:
- Friends of your parents and parents of your friends
Where to Network
- Informational interviews with alumni
- Career fairs and company-sponsored events
- Professional workshops and seminars
- Classes or student organization meetings with an external guest speaker
- Industry conferences and trade shows
- Alumni events
- Professional meetups
- Online networking platforms (e.g., LinkedIn)
- Industry-specific associations and organizations
- Business competitions and hackathons
Additionally, remember to stay open to networking opportunities in everyday situations like social gatherings, volunteer activities, and informational interviews.
The Art of Small Talk
Remember, professionals are regular people with their interests and lives. Networking doesn't have to be limited to work-related topics. Engaging in small talk can help establish connections. Here are some general conversation starters:
- Where are you originally from?
- Where did you go to school?
- What was your major in school?
- What are your hobbies?
- What brought you to this event?
If you're connecting with fellow or former Mountaineers, small talk becomes even easier:
- What is your favorite place to eat in Morgantown?
- Did/do you follow the WVU sports teams?
- Did you live on campus when you went to WVU?
- What do you like most about West Virginia?
- What is your best memory from WVU?
The Follow-Up Plan
Leave a lasting impression with personalized follow-up strategies.
- Send a thank-you email within 12 hours, highlighting the value gained and expressing continued interest.
- Connect on LinkedIn with a customized message, reminding them of your meeting.
- Follow up with an update on implementing their advice or progress made.
Following up after networking demonstrates your interest, professionalism, and commitment to building relationships. The CCD is here to support you throughout your networking journey. Reach out for guidance or advice.
Dos and Don'ts of Networking
- Request contact information, asking for their preferred communication method.
- Ask meaningful questions to foster engagement and active listening.
- Attempt to connect and find common ground, such as exploring shared company core values.
- Be honest about your experience, goals, and interests.
- Keep the conversation focused on professional topics.
- Avoid asking for referrals or a job on the first encounter.
- Refrain from inquiring about salary or confidential information.
- Maintain a strictly professional connection; avoid personal topics.
- Only request personal cell phone numbers if they indicate it's the preferred method.
- Respect confidentiality by refraining from asking about clients or sensitive information.
- Avoid commenting on appearance.
- Steer clear of negative conversations about competitors.
- Never fabricate stories or lies to establish common ground.
- Refrain from speaking negatively about previous employers.