How can you help your student learn to network effectively? Summer is actually a great time to network as business often moves at a slower pace in the summer months and everyone welcomes a chance to get out of the office. Plus, professionals love to help college students who are “home from school”. So, we have 5 things you can do to help your student make the most of the summer by exploring careers and building their professional network.
One: Discuss the power of relationships in your career. Take time to talk about career exploration and networking. Start by telling them the various ways relationships have helped you in your career. Students are told to network but rarely told why. Show them the power of relationships and how networking will impact them personally and professionally.
Two: Admit that it is hard. Emailing a perfect stranger is hard enough not to mention sitting across the table from them. However, students underestimate the length professionals will go to for a young adult who is just starting out. To build their confidence, help them develop their message. Help them craft their story (their elevator pitch) in a compelling way that will not only inform but also engage the contact. Also, share your failures and embarrassing moments. Explain the many reasons they may not hear back from someone so they don’t take it personally.
Three: Help them identify their network. The true power of networking comes from a mutual connection so help them look for these connections within their area of interest. These commonalities will be the initial connecting point and the foundation for the relationship. These can be as simple as fellow college alums, someone that played the same sport they play, someone who interned at the same company, a friend’s parent, or professionals from your network. It will surprise them just how many people they know when they really sit down and think about it.
Four: Walk them through the basics. Students should have a plan for how they will connect in a meaningful way with a new contact, how to craft an introductory email, what questions they are going to ask, the importance of a prompt reply, what to do if the contact doesn’t return their message, and how to maintain that relationship moving forward. Their communication style, message, presentation, how they tell their story, and how they demonstrate gratitude are vital to their success. Have them share their draft communications…you may be surprised! Some of our most intelligent, social students still need a lot of help crafting an appropriate email. If you don’t feel qualified to proof their work then ask a close friend to help.
Five: Motivate your student and make networking a priority by setting a networking goal such as having coffee with five new contacts over the summer. Brainstorm a reward, an extra privilege, or even make a wager over whether they’ll reach their goal. Having a goal and a reward can make networking fun and help your student stay focused.
Here’s a little secret, most professionals LOVE to help young adults who are just starting out in their careers. Don’t underestimate the lengths professionals will go to in order to help a young adult in their professional development. However, the power of networking doesn’t come from making a call, sending an email or making a LinkedIn request. It is really about investing in professional relationships! So here are our 6 tips on how to build professional relationships this summer.
One: Don’t underestimate your network. The true power of networking comes from a mutual connection or a shared experience that bonds you to another person. These commonalities will be the initial connecting point and the foundation for the relationship. These can be as simple as fellow college alums, someone that played the same sport you play, someone who interned at the same company, or a friend’s parent. You may be surprised just how many people you know.
Two: Demonstrate your communication skills and gratitude. Every interaction with a potential contact demonstrates your written and verbal communication skills. Make sure you are concise, choose professional verbiage, don’t use emojis, and sign the end every email with your contact information. Don’t text unless they text you first. All your communications should communicate your gratitude. Recognize the fact that these people are taking time out of their busy workday to meet with you so thank them for their assistance.
Three: Practice your elevator pitch. Who are you, what makes you unique and why should they care? Emailing a perfect stranger is hard, not to mention sitting across the table from them. However you will feel more confident if you have refined your message. Craft your story, your elevator pitch, in a compelling way that will not only inform but also engage the contact.
Four: Prepare! Nothing will sabotage a relationship faster than knowing nothing about the person you are meeting with. Research the person and their company, then integrate this research into the questions you ask. For example: “I saw that you started your career at McKinsey, what are the pro’s and con’s of starting your career at a consulting firm”. Take time to think about what questions you want to ask and make sure it isn’t something you can readily find online. Also prepare for the inevitable questions they will ask you. Make sure you are able to clearly state your strengths, what you are looking for, and why you are interested in a particular field.
Five: Make it easy for them. This begins with your initial email where you should include your resume and clearly state what you are looking for (i.e. advice, insight). Make yourself available and accommodate their schedule whenever possible. Ask them to choose a meeting location that is convenient for them. Always reply promptly to their emails or voice mails. Finally, don’t reschedule!
Six: Follow-up! What you do after the meeting is almost as important as what you do during the meeting. Send a thank you email within 24 hours. Reference specific advice or insight that the person gave you during your conversation and show your gratitude. Then, stay in touch with the occasional email. This can mean sharing an article you think they will find interesting, sending an update as you head back to school, or asking for follow up advice. Recognize that these people are now invested in your future success so foster their interest by staying in touch.
When looking for a job it is important to consider not only what you want to do but where you want to do it. Companies are going to great lengths to attract and retain employees through a wide variety of employee benefits and perks. It is hard not to be impressed by the on-site gym with yoga classes and a rock-climbing wall, free massages, free food, cafeterias that look like a 5 star restaurant, and take your dog to work days. Some companies even offer employee concierge service to pick-up your laundry, get your oil changed, and any other miscellaneous errand that will make your life easier.
However, too often job seekers mistake benefits and perks with corporate culture. Check out any number of “Best Places to Work” lists and you will see accolades for a company’s numerous perks and benefits. A company’s culture is oftentimes reflected in the perks they offer employees but certainly not defined by them.
Corporate culture is intangible and hard to define. It is a compilation of the company’s size, industry, beliefs, values, processes, people, and history. It is the personality of the company. Not to mention the fact that more important than any perk is what YOU need and what makes YOU happy. Trouble is, that can be equally as intangible and hard to define.
When working with clients I always ask, “What are you looking for in a company?”. Far too few have an answer. I would argue that answering this question is one of the most important steps in your job search. Knowing what you need and what makes you happy will help you not only know what you are looking for in a company but will help you evaluate whether or not a company’s culture suits you.
I believe there is no better way to judge how well a company’s personality fits you than by examining your own personality. What are your interests, passions, style and values? For example:
It is also important to recognize that your needs may evolve as you move through your career and life. If you are just starting out, perhaps a large company with a strong mentor network and history of advancing their employees is what you need. If you are a new parent perhaps a flexible work schedule and on-site childcare will make you happy.
Personally I’ve worked in large companies to start-ups with varying corporate cultures and luckily found what I needed to make me happy in most of them. I’ve had access to video game rooms, ping-pong tables, shuffleboard, gyms, on-site free massages, and beautiful offices with designer furniture. Yet, while nice to have, none of those things made me happy or gave me what I needed. For me it has always been about the relationships. I have been fulfilled and happy in my work because of the fabulous people I get to work with and for. I need and am motivated by interacting with others (classic extrovert but we will save that analysis for another time). Regardless of the company size or perks, I look for a company that values collaboration, rewards not only individual but collective achievements, is supportive and friendly, and where everyone is enthusiastically working toward and invested in shared goals.
So, how does an extrovert who is motivated by relationships run a two-person company and work from home? I do miss my numerous co-workers and bosses. I miss contributing to broad team efforts. I miss hearing about my friends’ lives on a Starbucks run. However, I have everything I need and everything I look for in a company. I get to work with an amazing business partner with whom I can brainstorm as we enthusiastically work toward our shared goals. I collaborate with amazing clients, schools, universities and companies and celebrate our individual and collective accomplishments. I am blessed to meet and work with inspiring young adults and their wonderful supportive families. Plus, at this point in my career and life I need to challenge myself to try new things. I need the freedom to build strategic initiatives and execute my ideas. Our two-person company has everything I need to be happy! I’ll admit, there is one company perk that I truly value…Take Your Dog To Work Day, EVERYDAY!
Chloe at the office
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