Friday, May 4, 2012

Networking for Success: Schmooze or Lose
by Diane Young

The Collegian, an independent student newspaper of the University of Tulsa
Summer 1996

This summer I was interviewed by the local news about finding a job through the internet. At the end of the interview, the reporter asked me if I thought I would get a job by using the internet. "No," I said. "I'll probably find one by networking."

I've grown up calling people on the phone, asking questions, and going on informational interviews. Being the daughter of a career counselor, I learned early the value of making contacts.

Networking got me my current summer internship based entirely on the recommendation of my professor. Networking in one form or another has gotten me every job I have held since I was 16 years old. I expect that networking will also be the key to my post-college career.

This job search has proved to be a little more challenging, however. As a native Tulsan looking for a job in New York City, I thought my networking outlook was bleak at best. I am happy to say though, that I am visiting New York next week to meet all of the people I have contacted through email or by phone.

As an enthusiastic supporter of networking, I have realized a few fine points that can help anybody who is willing to make the effort.

Ask everybody you know if they know anybody.

You'll be surprised how many connections you can make through other people. The key is to make sure people know that you are looking, and don't underestimate the possibilities. By advertising my job hunting through my parents, professors and friends, I've found neighbor's children, former students, and relatives who live in New York. All of them have been valuable resources for direct help or have passed me on to others who could help.

Don't just ask for a job, ask for information.

I used to think that networking was simply introducing yourself and going straight for the kill: "Hi, I'm Joe's daughter. I need a job." It involves a little more finesse than that. By asking for work instead of advice or information, you limit yourself to that person's spur-of-the-moment answer. If you tell the contact what you are looking for and ask for advice, you broaden the playing field. The contact will think on a bigger scale and probably give you options or ideas that you may not have considered. Also, if contacts feel like you value them for their knowledge and not just as a meal ticket, they are more likely to help you again if you call.

This point has been especially important for me since I am moving to a strange city. I fell less anxious knowing that I have made friends who can answer questions and I can call on for help when I need it.

Don't be afraid to contact leads.

This is probably the hardest point of all, but the most important one. I've always been surprised how helpful people are when I call. I've learned not to worry about sounding dumb because everyone I call has been in the same position at some time. As long as you make sure to let the lead know who gave you their number, what your relationship is to that person and what you want, you'll be surprised how easy it is to get people to talk.

Don't forget to send thank you notes.

Good manners never hurt anybody. It's important to let both the people who gave you leads and the contacts you made know that you appreciate their help. Thank you notes are a good way to help thank people you spoke with remember you, and in a good light.

Networking is an ongoing process of meeting people, remembering names and returning favors. I have logged many long-distance hours on the phone the last two months and I have the bills to prove it. 

I've called several friends of a friend of a friend who live in New York, and they all now have a copy of my resume. If everything works out, I will have a job in August.

Editor's note:  Diane did find a job in New York in August through a family connection.

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