Networking is all about relationship building and information sharing.
Its objectives are to build rapport with people, gain valuable information about companies and industries, get advice, and expand your network with new contacts. Remember that each new connection you make is a step toward building a meaningful relationship — it is not a transaction.
These tips will help you efficiently create a network that works for you.
Even if you are exploring more than one career path, do not spread your energies across too many areas. Your time will be spent inefficiently and you will appear scattered.
Create a Prioritized List of Contacts
- Decide what you need to know and who knows it. You may include industry experts, people in a position that interests you, or someone who has a strong network you would like to tap.
- Consult the Stanford GSB Alumni Directory and LinkedIn to find fellow Stanford graduates by industry, company, and/or function.
Set up a Meeting
- Introduce yourself briefly, and be clear about your objectives. (“I’d like to learn more about…” not “I’m looking for a job.”)
- Refer to these email best practices prior to emailing a contact
- Ask for no more than 30 minutes.
- If the person doesn’t respond, follow up.
- If you have tried three times and haven’t received a response, move on.
Do Your Homework before You Meet
- Know your contact’s background and learn about his or her industry.
- Prepare a list of questions.
- Have an answer to the question, “How can I help?”
- Develop your elevator pitch.
When You Meet
- Stick to your agenda, and do not go over the allotted time.
- Near the end of the meeting, ask for suggestions of other people who might advise you.
- Ask if there is anything you can do to return the favor.
Stay in Touch
- Send a thank-you note that briefly mentions a few key takeaways and your follow-up on any open items.
- Invite your contact to connect via LinkedIn.
- If you successfully connected with a suggested contact, circle back with thanks.
- If you feel you had a good rapport, continue to build on the relationship by periodically sending updates and seeking advice at critical points.