Networking — Who Do You Know?

"It's all about who you know."
"Networking is so important."
"Connections are everything!"

We've all heard it. We get it. But how do you network? It's easier said than done. Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions on how I network and thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post about this!

I honestly cannot stress enough how important networking is, no matter what your field is — fashion, finance, marketing, journalism, etc.

I network a lot because my university is not a target school for most big employers. Does that mean non-target school students can't work for a big name employer one day? Definitely not — but you will have to work harder and network more than students from target schools.

I dedicate 80% of my career success to networking. I have met some of the nicest, most helpful people through networking and I am grateful to them everyday, because, honestly, I would not be where I am today if it weren't for them.

During my freshman year of college, I became very interested in investment banking. After a short internship at an investment bank, I realized that it wasn't for me. When my friends told me a lot about consulting, it intrigued me. I did a lot of research on consulting, but I had so many more questions about consulting that Google simply couldn't answer. That's when I knew I had to network.

Getting started on networking was hard. I had just come home from my freshman year at college. I had no internship. I didn't have a "how to network" guide. I stayed up late, googling everything I could find to help me learn how to network. I read a lot of how-to articles and other schools' career services guides. After reading more on how to network, I applied what I had learned on LinkedIn. Ever since then, I spent around 6-8 hours every week just on networking. And now I have over 100 connections, just for consulting.

At first, I felt like networking was selfish because it's essentially trying to get to know someone who can help you later on. But the thing is, it doesn't have to be a selfish thing. Don't think of networking as a one-way thing. Thinking that it's a one-way thing will not take you very far with networking.

In order to be successful with networking, I think the most important thing is your mindset. You need to be willing to contribute as much as you can to your alumnus, and always be grateful for their help, because, honestly, they don't have to help you. Your alumni are taking time out of their busy days to speak with you and help you with your career. Always be thankful.

Here's how I did it:

1. Take advantage of your school's alumni directory.

If you have access to your college alumni directory, definitely check that out. Every school's alumni directory is different, so you should visit your school's career service center if you need help navigating the database.

If your high school has an alumni directory, definitely take advantage of that too. Some of my most helpful connections are from my high school directory. Most people connect with their college alumni, not high school, so reaching out to someone from your high school could be more close to home.

I also highly recommend updating your profile on your high school alumni directory. You never know who is looking through it. It also lets a current student at your high school reach out to you if they need your help!

Honestly, I think finding the people is the hardest part about networking. Sometimes alumni directory aren't organized in the most efficient way and it can take some time to find people. It took me three hours just to find alumni from my high school that I wanted to speak with. Depending on how large the directories are, it can take you even longer.

2. Take advantage of LinkedIn.

If your high school and/or college has an alumni group on LinkedIn, it's a good idea to join them. You will find a lot of people on there. A good thing about using LinkedIn is that it's likely that the people on there have updated profiles (some people don't update their high school/college alumni directory). Join the groups, find people who work in industries that interest you.

3. Reach out to your family and friends, if necessary and/or applicable.

Do you have a family member or a close friend who has the connections you need? If so, ask them if they would be willing to introduce you to said person. It's okay if your family and friends don't know anyone — it's not the end of the world! My parents are both professors, so they don't know any consultants, and yet I'm still here!

4. Send an e-mail.

This is where I get the most questions. "What do I say?" My answer? Be honest. Ask yourself why you want to talk to that person. Does that person's career really interest you? Are you seeking advice?

Keep it brief. Introduce yourself. Tell them where you found their name and explain why you are reaching out to them. Ask them if they would be willing to chat with you for 15-30 minutes. Then send. Be genuine.

TIP 1: Whatever you do, do not ask for an internship and don't attach your resume to the email.

TIP 2: Don't ask something that you can find on Google. Don't email a consultant and ask them what consulting is. This will not give off a good impression, because if you truly are interested in a field, then you would've at least Googled it.

TIP 3: This is related to tip 2, but do your research. Know your stuff and have good questions to ask your alumnus. Your alumnus can tell whether you've done your research or not.

5. Wait.

Waiting is hard. It's normal (and expected) to get no response. Some of my friends sent emails to 100 people and only heard back from 8 of them. This is normal! It is extremely frustrating, but this low-reply-rate is precisely why you need to network a lot — not everyone will help you.

6. Networking is what you make of it.


If your alumnus replies to your email, great! Try to work out a time to chat with them. Where things go from your first email depends on you and the alumnus. Get to know your alumnus. Let the alumnus get to know you. Let it be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Honestly, networking isn't hard; it's just very time consuming. But the payoff is great.

If you have any questions or would like more tips and pointers on networking, leave a comment below.


Hope you found this post helpful!

With love,
Phyllis

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