Tips for Networking
As you continue the summer job and internship search during COVID-19, networking is more important than ever. While it may seem that fewer opportunities are available during this pandemic, effective networking can unlock a whole array of positions that were never even posted on job sites. From a proper outreach email to the important follow-up, here are some tips to network your way to a meaningful job or internship.
Target your connections using your networks
Before you begin emailing everyone you know, work on strategically searching for potential connections. Using LinkedIn, search for your college and find the “Alumni” section, then filter for alumni based on your desired location, industry, or company. Similarly, you can use your college’s alumni database to find connections. Some college databases provide alumni emails, which you can use to directly contact those individuals. LinkedIn profiles usually do not include emails, but you can connect with people over LinkedIn messaging or find their email online by navigating to their company website, social media profile, or using an email search tool like RocketReach. If you still can’t find their email, consider other methods of communication, like messaging over Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Maybe you have a mutual connection through a friend – reach out to that friend and ask for an introduction. There are lots of sneaky ways to connect, so don’t be shy about trying something unconventional.
Organize and track your outreach in a spreadsheet
Connections can get confusing! In order to make the most of networking, you’ll want to keep track of necessary information to avoid embarrassing yourself by getting connections’ names or positions wrong in the networking email. Create a spreadsheet with separate columns for each connection’s name, company, position, contact information, date of outreach, and relationship. List each connection in a separate row and fill them out as you search. Also include a “notes” column for other information about my method of outreach and the current status of the connection. For example, if a connection hadn’t responded in a few days, write “yet to respond” in the “notes” column as a reminder to send a follow-up email. Finally, make a column for “next steps” to record your follow-up strategy.
Reach out confidently and respectfully
Once you’ve acquired all of the necessary information to reach out to your contact, it’s time to send them an email. The email should include your name, year in school, higher education institution, and goal in reaching out to them. It could also be useful to include how you received that person’s contact information, either through your school alumni database or elsewhere. If you’ve already applied to a position at the person’s company, let them know which position you applied to and include a link to the job description. Depending on your interest in the position, you may also decide to attach your resume. If you haven’t applied to a position yet or if their company isn’t offering any positions of interest to you, just let them know that you’re looking to learn more about their career path, company, and advice for a student seeking internship opportunities. You never know, they may even be willing to create a position for you! Lastly, end the email with a direct request. Ask to schedule a phone call within the next few days or weeks. If you don’t include a call-to-action, your connection may be unsure why you’re reaching out, so be clear and direct in your correspondence.
Here’s an example of an effective networking email:
I hope you are well. My name is Katie and I’m a junior at Pomona College. I’m interested in marketing and communications in the tech industry, and I saw on LinkedIn that you work at Airbnb. After receiving your email through the Pomona College Alumni Network, I am reaching out to learn more about your work at Airbnb and your career path. I am especially interested in hearing any advice that you may have for a student interested in this field. Please let me know if you would be willing to talk over the phone sometime this week.
After you’ve sent an email, make note of it on your spreadsheet. Connections may not get back to you for a few days, or even weeks, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in talking to you. People are busy, and they may even need a little push to remind them to respond. If they have yet to respond within a week, send a short and kind reminder (and don’t forget to update your spreadsheet noting it). If and when they do respond, schedule a time to talk.
Don’t be afraid to chat!
Talking to people over the phone can be one of the most stressful parts of networking, but it doesn’t need to be. Come prepared to the phone call with an elevator pitch, or a short description of who you are and what you’re looking to gain from the conversation. Your pitch can include your area of study, past experiences or positions, your skills, and your goals for the summer. After some appropriate small talk, start the call with this pitch to provide your connection with some background, and then ask them if they have any questions for you. Once you’ve set the context, it’s time to ask your questions. I’ve found that I really only need to ask a few questions to effectively network, including:
You may need to adjust those questions to work for you, but remember to keep the call short and sweet. Most people don’t have more than thirty minutes to talk, so move the conversation along thoughtfully. Above all, remember that you should be guiding the conversation. Do not expect your connection to ask you questions or lead the way. End the call by thanking them and promising to keep in touch.
Follow-up with your connection effectively
A day or two after the phone call, send a short follow-up email to your connection. Thank them for their time and their support and mention one piece of information from the call. For example, you might write, Thank you so much for speaking with me. I really enjoyed learning about your path from attending lectures at UC Berkeley to founding your own start-up. If they asked for materials or further information during the call, send those along in the follow-up. If you’ve already applied to a position at your connection’s company, consider asking for an employee referral or attach your resume and ask for it to be passed along to HR. These steps are definitely not necessary, but if you feel comfortable, they can make a big difference in securing a position!
Networking seems scary, but it’s a great way to practice your outreach skills and emotional intelligence. Throughout your career, you’ll need to know how to talk to different types of people in an engaging way, so consider networking as practice for the real deal. After just a few calls, you’ll feel way more confident and at-ease when reaching out about positions or companies that interest you.