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Networking involves developing your contacts and connecting with people. Sometimes, it is about asking people if they are aware of job openings for someone with your qualifications, or if they know other people that can help you locate the unadvertised jobs. But on many occasions, networking is no different than cultivating friendly relationships with a group of people who work in settings that interest you. You can network by conducting informational interviews or attending career fairs where you have the opportunity to engage in a one-on-one exchange with a hiring manager. You can network just as effectively – if not more so – by volunteering for an organization or company of interest, or, similarly, applying for an internship or part-time position there. Such an approach will help you to raise your visibility to employers and introduce them to your unique skillset in what typically begins as a low stakes setting. Effective networking may actually lessen your job search time by turning personal contacts and direct applications into interviews and, hopefully, job offers.

Research has found that anywhere between 60 to 90 percent of all jobs are found through personal contacts and direct applications.
If you are interested in reaching out to a new contact, consider devising a script to manage the conversation, lessen your nerves, and prepare an impact-based elevator speech:

  • Short (less than a minute) speech on your qualifications, interests, and background.
    • Ask: Do you know of any opening for someone with my background or any people that might be interested in my background?
    • Ask: Do you know anyone that might know of openings for people like me?

Be ready to promote yourself when probed. For example, be comfortable in speaking about how what you have learned in graduate school would help you succeed in a given position.