The word "networking" may conjure images of awkward conversations with strangers at conference receptions. In reality, networking is the way that people in the professional world find kindred spirits, build community, and support each other. While meeting people you don't know yet is a part of networking, the goal is to build a web of people you can reach out to for advice, information related to your field, or to get accurate information about organizations in your field. It's never to early to start building these relationships, as they can often lead to opportunities or fulfilling relationships.
How to Reach Out
The hardest part of networking is the initial outreach to a new contact. While we have lots of in-person and online tools at our disposal to connect with people, the first approach is significant and potentially nerve-wracking. Your goal in the approach is to make a great first impression and share with your contact what you hope to get out of the conversation.
Quick tips include:
- Ask for an introduction, from a mutual acquaintance, if you can. The Liberal Arts in Practice Center, or a faculty member, may be able to help you connect with people in your field.
- Share why you're asking this person for help. What expertise can they provide? What areas of their background are you hoping to learn more about?
- Suggest a way to connect. Are you able to meet in person? Would you prefer to meet by phone or Skype? Suggest a way to meet and an expected (and reasonable) amount of time that the conversation will take.
- Reach out to multiple contacts. Your dream contact may not be readily available for a conversation, so make sure to reach out to lots of people.
- Express gratitude. After the conversation takes place, remember to thank the person for their time with a quick email or handwritten note! They'll be more likely to refer you to other people, if you take the extra time to personally thank them.
Connect with Alumni
In the Liberal Arts in Practice Center, we provide several ways for you to connect with alumni as the building blocks for your professional network. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet with alumni.
Spring Advising Practicum
Each spring, the college cancels classes for a day to host an alumni-centered Advising Practicum. Alumni participate in workshops, panels, and mock interviews that help students understand how to translate the Beloit experience in new contexts. The day culminates in the Mocktails with Professionals event, where students can connect with alumni in a social setting.
In Practice Trips
The Liberal Arts in Practice Center hosts fall break trips to connect with alumni at their work sites and in networking receptions.
Beloit Career Network
The Beloit Career Network (BCN) is an opportunity for current Beloit College students and Beloit College alumni and other supporters of the college to connect and engage with each other through their shared academic and professional pursuits.
The Beloit Career Network is supported by the shared work of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center and Alumni-Parent Relations. The mentoring connections are facilitated by the web-based Liberal Arts in Practice Toolbox. Mentors join the network and indicate the number, frequency, and type of potential connections. Then, students and other alumni in need of mentoring search the current network through the Liberal Arts in Practice Toolbox and invite connections through email.
This is an excellent way to build your network and learn from our alumni. If you would like to take part in the BCN, please schedule an appointment with the staff in the Liberal Arts in Practice Center. We will walk you through the search process and provide you access to the network through the Toolbox.
LinkedIn is a networking tool that, when used effectively, can help college students connect with professionals and search for a job. It is never too early to start your networking and searching, since cultivating a professional network takes time and effort.