If the thought of working a room of like-minded professionals with nothing but a smile and a stack of business cards makes you a little queasy, don’t worry. After all…
you are not alone, and…
this isn’t the only way to network.
Very few people, honestly, are comfortable with the familiar meet and mingle idea of networking, and while it does exist, and can be very helpful in making connections or reinforcing connections you’ve already made, you don’t need to begin your efforts that way. The truth is, you already have a network. You’ve already started to build one just by going to school, doing an internship or a volunteer activity, or working at a part-time or entry level job. You’ve started to build one just by living.
Your network, at this point, includes:
Family members and friends
Think about where people in your family work. Sure, some may cry nepotism if your uncle gets you an interview at your dream entry level, but it is up to you to actually get the job and to do your best work. Your friends, or their friends, may also work in companies that are hiring. Programs like LinkedIn and IntheDoor can help you find connections between your Facebook friends or email contacts and career opportunities.
Professors are often well placed to introduce you to someone in your field. Ask professors you remember connecting with, or whose classes you enjoyed. You don’t even have to have been in someone’s class to count them as a contact. Faculty advisers to any extracurricular activities you may have participated in could be of great help — you know you share an interest, and they can speak to your commitment to a task you weren’t even being graded on. And while we’re talking about school, make sure to find out with your school has a Career and Internship Office, or an alumni network. These are often invaluable in helping you find or get a position. Plus, if you’re reading this now, you probably already know that Experience can help you connect with alumni, so make sure to make an account.
If you have ever done an internship or a volunteer experience, or worked in any job, you had one or more supervisors, and even more co-workers. You’re in an especially good place if the job was in your field of interest — your contacts are currently working within the industry, and may know people who are looking for help.
So your network is pretty big, you may have noticed. If nothing else, brainstorming a few people from these categories will get you started. By the time you decide to fill out your network with people you’ve met at a mixer or even (gulp) cold-called, you’ll have a better sense of how to introduce yourself and articulate your goals, which can never hurt.