By: Brian Harrington
It’s a conversation you’ve probably heard dozens of times while walking around Questrom: “I have a networking connection, but now what?”. While each connection you make can help in your career search, it’s important to remember that not every connection is equal. Regardless of the situation you currently find yourself in, the importance of growing and maintaining your professional network is always of significant value. Here are some tips on how to deal with different types of connections throughout your career:
Type 1: Someone you worked alongside or who supervised you: These types of connections can be immensely valuable when you find yourself in need of a reference. These are the people who have seen you in action, know your work style, and can provide direct examples of how you displayed both the soft and hard skills that come across on your resume and cover letter. At the end of any job/internship, it’s always a good idea to get some form of contact information from anyone you’ve interacted with over the course of your tenure, whether it be an email address or a LinkedIn connection. Even if you have no intention of working for the company again, you never know who they could recommend you to or what their career path might look like in the future. A simple email to check-in once or twice a year can be a great way to preserve this relationship in addition to the social media.
Type 2: A friend/fellow club-member/classmate: While each person within this group is going to know you a little differently, all three can provide unique value in terms of connecting you to your desired role. For starters, this group consists of people who recently, or are still currently, going through the job-search process. Whether it’s an upperclassman friend you made who is now working or a classmate you’re sitting next to while reading this blog, every person in this category is going to be able to relate to your current day experiences in a much easier way. They know and understand the process you are going through right now and can give you tips on what has or hasn’t worked for them recently. Additionally, there’s a chance you’ll be applying for similar roles, which makes for a perfect interview prep partner or a future connection when trying to change jobs!
Type 3: A professional you met at a networking event: This group can often be the toughest to navigate. At networking events you are probably used to seeing a dozen or so students huddled around 1-2 professionals handing out dozens of business cards. You may find yourself wondering “how am I going to stand-out from these other students and make sure I maintain this connection”. It’s not an easy thing to do, but is absolutely an attainable goal. For starters, always make sure to send a thank you message after the event that draws on something unique that you and the professional talked about. This will help the connection picture in their mind who you are after talking to 30 other students with similar interests. Additionally, if this connection is in a field that you are genuinely interested in it is always a good idea to ask for an informational interview, either over the phone or over a cup of coffee. This shows the professional that you are interested in continuing the conversation, while making it clear that you are not asking for a job interview. Assuming all goes well during the informational interview, you have now developed a more personal connection and put yourself in a position to potentially ask the professional about job opportunities later. This now places you in a category that the other 30 students at the networking event are no longer in.
In all honesty, these tips are easier said than done, especially for an introvert like myself. But it’s important to remember that while your LinkedIn may say 500+ connections, you only need to develop a few really strong and personal connections in order to find yourself in a position to succeed within the job market. Every connection you make has a whole other network they can introduce you to, and before you know it you’re only a few connections away from that sought after professional.