The 5 Do’s and Dont’s of Networking

This fall, the Mizzou campus is bustling with lots of employer activity! We have a record number of employers attending career fairs, scheduling on-campus interviews, and hosting information sessions. To have a successful interaction, consult our brief list of Do’s and Don’ts!

Networking Do’s:

  1. Do realize why networking is valuable. The vast majority of job vacancies are not advertised to the public and are part of the “hidden” job market. The only way to learn about them is to talk with other people.  For example, if Evan, a recent Mizzou alum, finds out someone in his marketing division is leaving for a new job, that’s an opportunity very few other people know about. And if Evan can vouch for you, all the better!  Employee and colleague referrals are the favorite ways that recruiters source candidates.
  2. Do think creatively about where to find network contacts. Contacts are not limited to high-ranking officials in a company. Your classmate, dog walker, neighbor, former coach… anyone for that matter can be a valued networking resource. Let people in your life know that you are searching for a job or internship!
  3. Do make use of LinkedIn. There is simply no better tool to find connections in your industry or occupation.  People expect to be contacted and you can use the Alumni Tool and Groups to identify people with a similar background or career interest.
  4. Do conduct informational interviews, one of the most effective ways to network. Reach out to someone in your desired occupation and ask questions about their career journey and advice for an aspiring professional.  It’s a great way to learn more about your field and a great way to create an industry relationship.
  5. Do be polite. Thanking people for their time and referral sand expressing gratitude go a LONG way!  Send notes of appreciation, thank you messages and status updates. People like to know if their efforts helped you be successful!

Networking Don’ts:

  1. Don’t be pushy. You might feel a great sense of urgency, but people lead busy lives with lots of responsibilities. Even if your communications are polite, constantly emailing or calling someone is simply annoying and the person you are contacting will likely not respond to you or decline to help. Be respectful and realize there are always other contacts you may pursue.
  2. Don’t rush your communication. Emails and conversations should be thoughtful.  It’s important you have reflected on what you want to convey to a contact in terms of your skills, strengths, career interests and needs. You don’t want to hurry an email with typos, confusing language or a lack of context.
  3. Don’t be shy. Networking is not just for outgoing types… just learn how to do it in a way that fits with your communication style. If you are more comfortable writing, consider more email messages (initially) or if you like sit-downs, schedule face-to-face interactions.  Realize that no matter what your style, you will have to challenge your comfort level in the process!
  4. Don’t forget what to ask! When you reach out to someone it’s critically important they know why you are contacting them and how you want them to help!  A vague question, “Can you help in my job search?” is hard for someone to respond to. Ask something specific so there are clear action steps. For example, “Would you be willing to review my resume and cover letter and provide feedback?” or “Could you introduce me to your colleague who manages the Research Department?”
  5. Don’t feel like you are imposing. Remember, people you are reaching out to were in the same position when they were college students. Networking is a two-way street and most professionals expect to “pay it forward” in the same fashion that someone helped them early in their career!