- making contacts
- asking for advice and information
- giving people a chance to help you
One of the best ways to boost your chances in the job market is to make sure you are as well informed as possible and that people know you and what you can do. Making contact with people who already work in areas that interest you can play an important part in your success.
Networking works because most people like to feel useful. Opinion and advice are things that almost everyone can offer. People like to say 'yes' - the graduates on the Graduate Connections database already have and are willing to give you information and advice about the kind of work they do.
When you contact someone, always apply these rules:
- Never ask for a job or even an interview. Saying 'no' is embarrassing and you want your contacts to feel good about being able to help you. Always start by asking for something they can give - advice and information.
- Ask for a short meeting; 20-30 minutes should do it. They may give you more time if things go well.
- Be clear about what you want and be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have. Your contact might be able to give you:
advice on the market;
information on where the jobs are advertised;
advice on what to expect at an interview;
feedback on your CV;
opportunities for work shadowing, voluntary or part time work
- Always thank them afterwards - in writing is definitely best.
- Aim to leave with one or two more names to help build your network. Be clear about what any new contacts can offer you in terms of expertise.
Be clear about what you want
Make the most of your network and the meetings you arrange with your contacts by doing your homework. If you don't know what you want, a meeting may turn into an aimless chat and end up being a frustrating experience all round. Find out about the organisation in advance. One of the best ways to make them interested in you is to show that you are interested in them.
For example, the focus of a meeting could be:
- finding out more about employment in that sector
- getting advice on your job search
- looking for new contacts to add to your network
Seek their advice - this kind of meeting is sometimes called an 'information interview'. Be prepared to ask questions to give your contact the chance to pass on what they know. Listen to what they say and show that you value their advice.
This kind of meeting can be hard to start off with so here are some ideas for questions you could ask:
- What do you feel about my chances of getting into Career X?
- Are there things I could do to strengthen my chances? (mention any relevant activities you already do)
- Are there other career areas that my strengths and characteristics make me suitable for that I might not have thought of?
- What do you think of my CV? - you might concentrate on content, style or layout.
- How could I use my CV to sell myself better to an employer?
- Show that you know of some places the organisation advertises vacancies and then check, if there are other places similar organisations advertise?
- Are there any specialist publications I should read? (mention any you already read regularly)
- Does your organisation offer any workshadowing or project opportunities that would allow me to broaden my experience?
- Could you recommend anyone else for me to talk to?
- Is it alright to mention your name when arranging a meeting with …?