Nov 15, 2021 | Atlanta, GA
Article by Emma Ryan
You know that networking is important for building your career. But, when it comes to this professional development skill, what are the strategies for success?
“Networking is important for all professionals — but especially for graduate students who are often trying to make the next leap in their career.” said Lanie Damon, a graduate career development advisor. “Networking is the foundational skill that you need to find internships and research assistantships, identify mentors, and connect with potential employers.”
If you’re looking for ways to expand your circle and secure your next job or internship, check out these seven tips from career professionals at Georgia Tech.
1. Use LinkedIn strategically. There are several ways to maximize your time on LinkedIn. (For tips on how to improve your profile, click here). Here are a few strategies:
- Use Tech’s organizational page to research and reach out to alumni in your field via the “Alumni” tab. Send them a personalized note with your connection invite and follow up at least once if you don’t hear back, Damon said.
- Look at your network’s past work experience to see if any of your connections have worked at companies that you’re interested in. If they have, reach out to them to talk about their experience and potentially get a foot in the door. “You can limit yourself by only making attempts to connect with someone high up in the organization, like the CEO,” added Lydia Pendleton, corporate relations manager in Aerospace Engineering. “Look to connect with people within the company who might be more accessible, such as alumni, classmates, or recruiters.”
- Use LinkedIn boldly when networking, said Ann Blasick, a career coach and corporate relations manager for the Master of Science in Analytics in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Once you’ve found people in the types of job you’re interested in, Blasick says to reach out confidently and ask for a short (around 30 minutes) networking chat. “The worst-case scenario is someone won’t respond back; the best-case is that someone will offer great advice and even a job referral,” Blasick added.
- Follow influential figures in your industry, and post and repost content relevant to your field. Damon also pointed out that companies are interested in you as a whole person, not just a professional. So, don’t be afraid to post things that you're personally passionate about as a way for people to get to know you better.
2. Do your research and look for commonalities. When you connect with a potential mentor or recruiter, take the time to learn more about their professional journey, Pendleton said. Those insights can help get the conversation started. For example, you could reach out to that person and say, "Hi Sandra, the article you wrote on (bears in the wild) was thought provoking. I’m writing a thesis on (wild bears living in tiny homes), which ties into the research you've done. I’d love to connect with you and exchange ideas," Pendleton said.
3. Focus on learning, not selling. When you’re communicating with your network, Blasick said to focus on listening and asking questions vs. talking about yourself. “Your goal in a networking conversation is not to sell yourself but rather to be curious, and gain advice and information on the job you’re interested in,” she said.
4. Take advantage of LinkedIn Learning. Tech students have access to free LinkedIn Learning courses. The platform offers courses on topics ranging from UX/UI design to Python and Java. “Even though you’re coming from a well-respected institution, these badges allow you to demonstrate a wider variety of skills,” Damon said.
5. Practice networking with the people around you. “If networking doesn’t come naturally to you, then it’s a skill that you can acquire,” Damon said. She recommends looking for ways to get involved on campus, whether through student organizations, volunteer opportunities, information sessions, or professor’s office hours. “You never know who is going to be able to help you along the way,” Damon said. “So, take advantage of opportunities to meet people — it’s easy to network with people who share an interest with you.”
6. Find and join professional associations. Organizations like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Industrial Designers Society of America will give you access to career pages, networking events, and professionals who are willing to help you out. To find professional associations to join, Damon said to check out organizations on Engage @ GT, and connect with subject experts at the Library. You can also join organizations specifically for graduate students, such as the Grad Society of Women Engineers, the Association of Chemical Engineer Graduate Students, and the PhD 2 Consulting Club.
7. Read The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton for a practical step-by-step approach. “Dalton points out that when networking, you’ll encounter three types of people: curmudgeons, obligates, and boosters,” Blasick said. “You can read the book to get the full definition of each type, but the key takeaway is that you should look for the boosters. Those are the people who respond quickly, and enjoy offering advice and guidance on your job search.”