For any student who is looking to position themselves favorably in terms of their professional development, networking is a fundamental skill. The reason why this process is so critical is due to the nature of most hiring practices, namely, candidates who submit applications that have already been internally flagged via a “referral” have vastly higher chances of being afforded an interview than candidates who do not. Therefore, the trope of “it’s who you know, not what you know” retains such importance for most business students.
But, like many elements of professional development, networking can become a very laborious procedure if not approached correctly, and here I hope to outline a step-by-step, common-sense approach to the process.
Step One: Identify your target industry/companies:
By first homing in on where your professional interests genuinely lay, you become more focused in your outreach. I recommend ~9 target companies for the average student, tiered much like you would a college list.
Step Two: Develop a networking log:
To ensure you are methodical in your approach, you want to log every interaction you have in the networking process. Specifically, I recommend using Excel or Google Sheets and track a few key variables: Name, Company, Date of Outreach, Date of Last Conversation, Number of Interactions, Key Takeaways, Follow Up Steps, Follow Up Timing. With these variables recorded, you can guarantee that you’ll never forget who you speak to or what you spoke about.
Step Three: Reach out:
There are a variety of means to reach out, but the best people to speak with are those you have some first or second-degree connection to, such as family friends or alumni of UMass. With the latter being the more likely option for most students, I greatly recommend leveraging LinkedIn by searching for alumni at companies on your list or utilizing our own alumni network platform which is full of eager alumni who want to connect!
Step Four: Ace the conversation:
Be sure when someone agrees to chat with you, likely over the phone, that you are ready to facilitate a great conversation. Try to establish some personal rapport, ask pointed, experiential questions, and ensure that you really dial up the energy as you want to be remembered as a very pleasant interaction.
Step Five: Follow up and capitalize:
After your conversation, be sure to always send some form of thank you (likely in an email or text message), but then consider what you need to do next for this contact. Do you have the indication they want to chat again (hopefully you do), because if so, you need to decide when would be an appropriate time to reach back out – this tends to be one to a few months. Additionally, if you need a referral, consider whether the contact would prefer a follow-up email with the question, or for it to be asked on a call. The more senior, the more likely the email is the better option!
Devon Roshankish is a Chase Career Peer – click HERE to access his bio.