Before you contact anyone
Know yourself well. Networking can provide you with the necessary information for the evaluation of goals, needs, and the atmosphere of various companies, allowing you to successfully integrate self and work -- but only if you have begun to define your own personal skills and needs. Our Self-Assessment Resources may help.
Consider the following questions. Knowing answers to these types of questions will help you to formulate strong questions for the people with whom you plan to network. You will also be prepared to answer questions they ask of you (which they invariably will!).
- What skills do I have and most enjoy using?
- In what state, city, or area do I most want to work?
- What occupational environment interests me? (e.g., if you’re interested in teaching adults, do you want to teach at a University? Adult education center? Business setting? Etc.)
- Within these organizations, what kinds of people would I like to be surrounded by?
- What would be the ideal goals, purposes, and values of my organization of choice?
- What sort of working conditions will enhance my contributions to the organization?
- What level of responsibility do I hope to undertake in the organization?
Think broadly. If you know what skills you have and enjoy using, but aren’t sure how they fit into an area of work and therefore do not know who to talk to, start with just one skill and identify a person who might use this skill in their job. For example, if one of your skills is organizing people, you might talk with the chairperson of a community fund-raising campaign. In your interview, ask that person if they know what other jobs would enable you to use this skill plus one more, or if they could refer you to someone who might know. Ask the next person how you might combine those two skills plus one more. And so on, until you have talked to at least one person who is currently using the skills you have and would like most to use. The benefit of focusing on skills is that you may see ways of combining your skills that lead to a job that would not have occurred to you if your focus had been on job titles.
Be prepared. Research the organization, the person you’ll be speaking with, product produced by the organization, etc. Both the Career Center search resources and Olin library are excellent sources for information. Try easily accessible periodicals such as The New York Times. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you will feel about your ability to communicate effectively, and the better questions you will be able to ask.