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Hiatt Career Corner: Don’t shy away from networking: You already know how!

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Opinions


One of the most important, life-long career development skills you can master is networking. Simply put, networking is the process of gathering information from others to help you expand your knowledge and make better decisions. You network all of the time. It is how you learn about social events, student organizations, and classes. It is how you decide which party to go to over the weekend. So why is it when I suggest “professional” or “career” networking to students they look aghast? “I don’t want to bother anyone,” or “Why would someone I don’t know help me?” students will argue. Let’s look at this another way…

When you started at Brandeis as a first-year or transfer student, how much did you actually know about Brandeis? Did you know where all the buildings were, what classes to take, or more importantly where to get the best coffee? Did you know where the best study spots were, how to decide between the hundreds of events on campus any given week, or where to do laundry?

I would imagine that you’ve answered “no” to at least one of these questions.

You learned the answers by speaking with others. Orientation leaders, C.A.’s, Roosevelt Fellows, Hiatt Advisors, team captains and other upper class students have been ready and willing to help you along the way, providing advice and guidance through a process that they previously experienced. Perhaps now you aspire to, or hold, a student leadership position on campus, ready to do the same. Professional networking is no different.

Professionals in any field have received advice and mentorship from those with more experience, and have every expectation that they will continue the cycle by assisting those with less experience. Brandeis alumni are professionals with whom you have something in common and are an excellent source of information. The Brandeis Alumni network is available online through LinkedIn. To access this group, you must review the “Professional Networking with Alumni” PowerPoint (available at http://www.brandeis.edu/hiatt/students/careertoolbox/networking), meet with a career counselor and turn-in a signed Alumni Networking Contract.

The top 10 steps to start building your network:

1. Reflect on your values, skills and interests and identifying what you wish to accomplish by networking

2. Learn how to network

3. Find contacts (i.e., alumni, supervisors, faculty, co-workers, coaches and acquaintances)

4. Reach-out to contacts via phone, email or LinkedIn

5. Prepare for your conversation including researching the field, organization and alum

6. Communicate clearly and asking thoughtful questions during the conversation

7. Take notes during your conversation

8. Send a thank you note

9. Track your networking activities

10. Keep your contacts informed about your process and following up with them

While you may call it by another name, you have most likely already begun networking. Each connection you make has the potential to help you narrow in on your interests, figure out how to best achieve your goals, and build relationships with people who can guide you.

Editor’s Note: Andrea Dine is the Associate Director of the Hiatt Career Center.