I know the importance of building a network and maintaining connections, but the steps to do so seem rather vague. What is the most effective and efficient way to maintain network connections and relationships? Email them directly? What should I say? Use more indirect means (i.e. activity/updates on social media platforms)? Thank you for your time and advice. Angela (Biology, Pre-Vet 2018)
Personally I’m a fan of direct contacts. If you’re keeping a connection with me so I can make you aware of a job opening, I want to get to know you. Updates on social media go out to everyone, and they’re not as an informative as a direct contact. When I refer a person for a job opening, my reputation is on the on line. If you turn out to be a poor candidate, I may lose the respect of my colleagues, and they won’t trust me again if they are looking for someone. For me to really keep someone informed, I would at least like an email, and if you’re in the same town with them, offer to have lunch or coffee, something simple, saying you want to know a little more about their field or their agency/ company.
Hi, Angela! I find that LinkedIn is not only the preferred way for professionals to connect and maintain communications, but it effectively designs a résumé for you that is always current. You can also download and print that résumé. In addition, in my life coaching and job placement counseling that I do in my business (The Bearded Buddha), I tell my clients that employers will look to see whether a prospective employee has a LinkedIn account. This crosses all boundaries of fields/professions, even academia (though, depending on the discipline, there are online social media outlets that are specific to particular academic fields). Look me up on LinkedIn as “Randy Beeler”/”The Bearded Buddha” and connect with me there to test it out for yourself!
Hi Angela, you’re right, the steps are vague. But that’s okay! The best way to start connections is direct communication, whether in person conversation or email. Let them know why you’d like to connect with them and a little about yourself. Ask one or two specific questions. For example, if there is a UD alum who is a vet, reach out and ask how well UD prepared them for their career. I would avoid contacting them on personal social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You’re making professional connections, not social ones. LinkedIn connections and updates are fine, but direct communication is always best. Hope this helps!
Use LinkedIn as a social media base. Let your first connections know what you are looking for (company size, industry, location, job type, etc.). You can use LinkedIn profile and messaging, but the best way is certainly to talk to people (not email). Then begin using your primary network to introduce you to their network, again preferably through phone and meetings. Most people want to help, but know that everyone is busy and if you don’t succeed connecting at first, try again perhaps on a different time or day of week when they might have time.
These are great questions. To your first question, “What is the most effective means of building relationships?” I have learned that the best way to build professional relationships is to contact people directly. This would include emails, phone calls, letters, etc. Being active on social media has its place, but my opinion is that social media is for making connections rather than building relationships. Ideally, I will get a person’s contact information from social media but will contact them through a more personal means such as those I mentioned. To your second question, ”What do you say?” The best advice I have received is to personalize your communication. For example, I have a client who is in the roofing business. If I come across a legal article regarding roofing or a new law that effects roofers, I will send my client an email with this information. Doing this gives me a good reason to reach out, and allows me to start a dialogue wherein a can ask questions without it feeling forced. Best of luck to you!
Couple of points: 1) Don’t be afraid to cold call or reach out to someone you think may be in a position to help you (LinkedIn is a great resource). No one is coming to you, but most people will try to help someone who reaches out to them. 2) Be specific in what you are looking for when you contact someone: a meeting for coffee for advice, inquiries about research or internship opportunities, etc.
Don’t think of them as “connections.” They should be living, breathing relationships; otherwise you’re putting the cart before the horse. A professional network is not a dusty rolodex of business cards you can turn to when you need a job. It’s a group of people-who don’t have to know one another-that you could go to lunch with or have a ten minute conversation with. Generally they know you on a person level (say, a high school friend’s parent) or a professional level (your supervisor at an internship). Your network will change as your career progresses and you gain work experience. At UD my network were the Resident Coordinator I worked for and the head of Campus Safety, my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends, and a few other people I had worked for since high school. Said another way, my network was simply the people I talked to most or had long-standing friendships with. Staying in touch was natural. For someone who knows you professionally like an internship supervisor, send them an e-mail or meet up for coffee once every few months. Ask about job prospects if you liked the company, catch up on things you’d talk about at lunch when you were an intern. There are plenty of people who want to help college students out. Stay in touch with the people you know in careers you think you’d enjoy, or people you admire, and ask to meet up every few months. When it’s job-hunting time the people who know and trust will be the people who can give you the strongest recommendations. They’ll also know you’re generally interested in them–and not just the “connection” or the doors they can open–because you’ve kept in touch with them regularly.
I tend to be very old-school in my approach to networking. I do not use social media, although many of my colleagues my age and younger do. To establish contacts I prefer to initiate communication either in person at a professional conference or gathering, or, if necessary, I will send them in email or a regular letter. Depending on the age and computer usage of the person (just a search online can give you a hint if email is the way to go) I am contacting, sending a letter may be the most appropriate means (yes, I work with some people who despise electronic communication). Once initial contact has been established, I usually maintain contact via email or telephone. As for what you should say, first of all be honest. State who you are and your goals. I receive emails from undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world asking research questions and for my opinion about graduate programs. In order to best help them, I need some information about their background and what they want to achieve. Some individuals you contact may ignore you because they are swamped with work, are traveling, or are just uninterested, but most people really want to be helpful and assist younger people in getting ahead. Also, make sure in your messages that you are polite and formal until the person you are contacting tells you otherwise.
Dear Angela, Build a foundational network through face-to-face interactions. Join professional organizations, volunteer your services, seek advice from mentors. Maintain connections through mail, notes, email, social media. Show a sincere interest in what your peers/connections are doing. Any positive effort on your part will be to your benefit.
I’m going to answer this question from the corporate angle as that is where I have experience. Build out a good, updated LinkedIn Profile. Everyone you meet in a professional or academic environment, be sure to add them. LinkedIn really has become the future of networking in the digital age. Add people you meet professionally and academically with a personalized note. Don’t just send the connection request. That extra detail shows you care. Over time you will build a strong network on LinkedIn that you can leverage. The second piece of my advice regarding LinkedIn is this. If you need to reach out to someone in your network, don’t hesitate to do so. They accepted your request and should be just as willing to help you out as you would be to help them out. And always help out someone in the capacity you can when they reach out to you. LinkedIn isn’t the only piece of networking but if you can master this, you’ll have a great start.
Hey Angela! Thanks for the note. Here’s a couple suggestions for you to consider. Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated with relevant work experiences and extracurricular activities. For instance, if you’re an aspiring vet school candidate, what relevant course work have you completed? What sorts of clubs or activities do you partake in outside school? How about volunteering at the local animal rescue or shadowing at a vet clinic? LinkedIn is increasingly being used in the professional world to source top candidates for open positions. Recruiters frequently conduct searches on the platform when they’re setting up interviews for hiring managers. Secondly, getting involved in activities pertaining to your desired career goals – even if it’s volunteering- will allow you to meet other people who may be good references or mentors in your field. Several internships not only give me real world experience but also letters of recommendation and references that I used for future job applications. Lastly, don’t forget to think about those folks in your immediate circle (parents, family friends, etc). These people likely know you the best and will be willing to make an introduction on your behalf. Good luck and hope this helps!
Angela, great question! The importance of building and maintaining a network of associates is certainly important! I’m glad that its importance is not lost on you! The element that you seem to describe as big, however, seems to me to be a vagueness of the best means of contact between colleagues or potential associates/ collaborators. Based on the wording of the question, it seems that the immediate assumption of using email and social media to network leaves out the most important connections of all, which are made through personal contact and phone calls. When a professional his first starting, it seems daunting, if not presumptuous, to assume that you can meet a contact face to face or call someone ‘important’ to speak with them directly but I promise you that this is the ultimate goal you want to have when building a network of relationships. Even if you are not always able to meet with someone face-to-face or call them at any given time, you want to have a relationship comfortable enough to know that they would feel comfortable accepting your call or you would feel confident meeting them face to face. So with this end goal in mind, then the steps to doing so are no longer vague, but quite clear. As you move through your college experience and answer your professional career think about the people you meet as parts of concentric circles. Look at the level of comfort and communication you have currently with your closest friends and associates (i.e. People you would meet face to face at a moments notice), then think about what steps it took to achieve that relationship. Once you have a sense of what it took to establish those connections, assess how those friends and contacts are connected to other people you might wish to meet. Work your power base of close friends and associates to foster other professional connections with people who you might ordinarily ‘just email’ or contact on Facebook. As you connect with other professionals through mutual friends and interests, you will find “networking” is actually friend-making just with a specific mutual goal in mind. There is no substitute for picking up the phone and meeting face to face. None. And the more concrete friendships you established with professionals the easier this will become.
The best method is face to face conversations. If that is not possible due to distance or time, I recommend using a tool such as LinkedIn.
Both email and social media are helpful to me in maintaining a connection to an institution like UD. It depends upon the content. Learning about events, fundraisers, and news works best over social media. Individual types of things – like this survey – work well by email.