If you don’t make it a top priority on your semester agenda, networking in college is often left by the wayside. This is because the effort required to grow your business network is seen as another task pulling for your time. And most people don’t think networking is worth their time compared to other activities, so they don’t pursue it.
But, meeting people and improving your network is arguably the best way to increase your shot at securing the job you want after graduation. So logically speaking, spending time networking is the best use of your time.
This is because when your business network is as fine-tuned as a spider’s web, you’ll be able to reach out to your network and end up with more job opportunities than you know what to do with, and that’s never a bad problem. Not to mention all the possible career advancement and new opportunities that result from a solid list of connections.
Hitting it off for 30 minutes with one person who gets you your first job is exponentially more productive than the endless hours it takes to get a good grade point average (see if employers care about your GPA here), have impressive extracurricular activities, and to interview well. Think of that next time you say networking isn’t worth your time.
With that said, let’s take a look at the different opportunities to improve your professional network.
Actions To Improve Your Business Network
Sending an email takes the least amount of effort, and that’s why it usually results in the smallest reward. But, emails can be a nice start in introducing yourself and setting something else up on this list to build the relationship.
Also, keeping this in mind will help you: Since you can email virtually anyone, the opportunity or access is never an issue. However, everyone else can email anyone too, so the problem is that busy professionals get hundreds of emails a day. That’s why it’s wise to carefully craft a concise email, and don’t get discouraged if your email isn’t responded to right away, or at all.
2. Phone Call
Talking on the phone is more personal than an email and allows you to get to know the other person and their thoughts quicker. And for those of you who are trying to network with people who don’t live close to you, a phone call (or Skype video call) is your best option.
I recommend preparing questions in advance so when the time comes to speak with them, you’re ready to go. Some good sample questions off the top of my head include: What’s your favorite part about your position? What’s a unique aspect of your role that most people don’t know? If you were me, what steps would you take to get to where you are now? (When you make the call, remember to avoid the words successful people don’t say.)
Better than an email and a phone call, meeting in person for coffee is a solid step in growing your business network with different individuals. Almost everyone loves coffee and the coffee shop allows for easy conversation, which is important.
If you really want to be on your game, I recommend offering to pay for this person’s coffee out of appreciation for them meeting with you. A small gesture of a couple of dollars can go a long way in developing your friendship.
Since body language is key for how you come across in person, freshen up with this body language post.
Where coffee is usually around 15 to 30 minutes, lunch provides a casual feeling and more time with the other person as it’s usually around an hour. Although if you haven’t met them in person before, it makes more sense to start with coffee and then build your way up to lunch.
You need to balance being positively assertive without being negatively too over the top. And like I said with the coffee, offering to pay for lunch can give you big bonus points later on when you need your business network for something.
5. Office Meeting
To make a meeting easier for them, you can ask to meet at their office as you explain that this option doesn’t make them to go out of their way. Some people will prefer this route, and others would rather meet for coffee or lunch at a public place, it simply depends on the individual.
Though for all people, don’t make the mistake of showing up to their office unannounced. This is almost always received poorly and could sour the relationship for good.
6. Shadow For A Day
Shadowing a professional for a day gives you one of the most enlightening aspects of their work. When you shadow him or her, you get an insider view at the pace of their day, where they spend the most time and with who, what are the joys and pains of their work, and other little details that you won’t find in a classroom, online, or anywhere else.
This insight also usually gives you the green light to continue pursuing this career, the yellow light to reconsider other options, or the red light to stop now and find a different field before you’re not happy at work. Better to know what you want to do sooner rather than later.
Plus, you can also expand your business network by meeting the coworkers of the person you’re shadowing. For all these reasons, I highly recommend shadowing a professional in your field!
As I wrote in my best-selling book The Golden Resume, the benefits of networking are fair to those who use it and incredibly unfair to those who don’t. So it’s simply your choice to network and reap the reward, or sit on the sidelines and watch your peers get the fruit of their labor. If you chose the former, use the methods above and you’ll be in the fast track to land a quality job.
Readers, do you give less effort than you should on expanding your business network? What gets in your way of growing your business network? Is networking a priority for you? Comment below with any other thoughts on this subject.
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