Networking. What kind of image does this word conjure up for you? If you’re like me, you probably imagine having to schmooze with higher-ups in suits at stuffy after work functions. Not exactly fun! Now before you break into a cold sweat, I’ll let you in on a little known secret, networking is actually not that hard or scary.
It’s all in your approach. Just think of each part of the process as corresponding to the growth of a tree. First, you need to plant your seed, take care and nurture your tree, then through persistence you will be reaping the fruits of your labours!
1. Research (planting the seed)
2. Cultivation (tending your tree)
3. Persistence (harvesting your leads)
Planting the seed
Think of research as the beginning stages of growth. Take for example the field of medical administration. If you are interested in getting into that field, you will need to research medical establishments then find the administrators or HR persons’ contact information at those companies. Once you have collected several contacts, you will need to make a cold-call. This is the hardest part of networking, but fear not most contacts will appreciate your efforts and may even be flattered that you view them as leaders in their field. When you are ready to call keep the following in mind:
- Introduce yourself and explain why you are calling i.e. For advice regarding getting into the medical admin field. Make sure you are not interrupting your potential contact. If the person doesn’t have time ask when they may be available. Don’t push and always be respectful!
- If they are available to talk, make sure you have some well-researched questions ready to ask. You are making an impression so make it positive!
- If the conversation goes well and the contact is helpful thank them for their time. You can also send them an “official” thank you card or letter if you want.
Tending your networking tree
Now that your contact is no longer “cold” you’ll need to cultivate the relationship to keep it “hot.” This is accomplished through staying in touch. You need to remind your contacts that you are available and still looking for work. Do this through follow-up emails or calls for advice or answers to any follow-up questions you may have regarding the field. Be careful not to call too much…you don’t want to become bothersome!
Harvesting your leads
Contacts or leads may bear fruit through persistent cultivation. Even if a contact may not have job leads at their company, they may hear of positions opening up at other companies and let you know. When you have a positive relationship with your contact they may even be willing to be a reference person, which will prove very handy especially if you are a new grad or changing careers.
Whether your networking tree is a sapling or a mighty oak, it’s important to set aside your fears and start the growing process!
Elaine Logie is a student studying within the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON. For more information about the Career Consultant Certificate Program, or how MCACES helps students with Employment Advisement, please contact Lidia Siino, Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.