Networking 102: How to Make Contacts

By Anne Brown
Co-author of Grad to Great (Dalidaze Press, 2007)

Q: How do I build my network? I don't know anyone that can help me find a job!

A: First, it’s important to realize that you already have a network. It may not be very large right now, but it is the foundation from which you will continue to grow your network. Make a list of all the people you know and categorize them by your connection to them. For example: teammate, coworker, roommate, person in the dorm, neighbor, teacher, parent's friend, coach, boss, hairdresser, personal trainer at gym, gym buddy, family friend, boss, etc. All of these people are part of your network. Make an effort to talk to people about your career goals and look for ways to help them also. Do not leave college without getting as many people's contact information as you can. Don't be shy. Remember networking is about building relationships and it can be FUN!

Second, you need to find ways to reconnect with people that perhaps you’ve lost touch with, or with whom you want to establish a more solid connection. This can be as easy as sending an email to a professor, or inviting a former peer at an internship to coffee. You could send out invitations to social networking sites like Facebook, or LinkedIn, along with a personal note stating how much you would like to stay in touch. This is very important to do. A few years down the road you may decide that you want to apply to grad school, or you want to go back and apply for a position with the company you interned for while in school. It's a heck of a lot easier to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation or to ask a former boss to be considered for a job when you've made the effort to stay in touch.

Finally, join volunteer organizations such as Junior League, Junior Achievement, or tap into opportunities to help the alumni chapters of your university or sorority. These types of groups provide a safe environment in which to develop and strengthen additional skills, both personal and professional. Attend educational seminars that relate to your career and interests. Take advantage of all of these events and turn them into networking events.

Anne Brown is a former journalist who became involved in writing about career development and success strategies after gaining experience in a wide variety of fields and industries herself. Anne has worked for universities, non-profits, start-ups, and large corporations. She’s worked in offices as large as tens of thousands, and for firms of less than ten. Currently, Anne is a Senior Web Producer and Project Manager for Sender LLC, a design and digital brand consultancy in Chicago. She is also the founder of GradtoGreat.com and co-author of Grad to Great (Dalidaze Press, 2007).