A guide to establishing and maintaining relationships with career professionals
Most job seekers have heard the same advice time and time again: go out and network! But why—and how—should you do it?
Why is networking important?
Did you know that nearly 85% of positions are filled through personal connections, often before the job is even advertised? When you’re on the job market, networking can help you:
- Identify “hidden” job opportunities
- Learn insider details that allow you to tailor your resume to specific openings
- Make sure your application is noticed by the hiring manager
- Earn recommendations that improve your chances of getting hired
At Ripple Effect, candidates often reach out to us with questions about our work, company culture, or application process. This is a great way to connect with us and get the information you need to maximize your job search. We know that we’re not always going to have the right job at the right time for some of the great candidates who submit resumes, so using our professional networks is also a great way to keep in touch as new projects and new positions come in.
How do I build my network?
Expanding your social network is important, but how are you supposed to do it? Below are some helpful hints we’ve shared with job candidates for the three stages of networking:
Step One: Find Potential Connections
When building your social network, it is important to talk to as many people as you can. To do that, consider these sources:
- Start with the people you know. For example, if you are interested in a career in science policy, consider your list of contacts to identify who might be able to offer you some perspective or put you in touch with someone who works in the field.
- Use LinkedIn to search for people by their company or industry. At Ripple Effect, our team of professionals includes a diverse range of backgrounds: PhD scientists, communications specialists, and more. In addition to our company page, most of our staff have LinkedIn profiles that can give you a great sense of the experiences that are most valued at the company. Consider reaching out to current employees to learn more.
- Use your academic connections. Try reaching out to alums from your university for information or an introduction to other professionals. Your university career development office can also put you in touch with former students who work in your field of interest.
- Get involved in professional organizations or societies. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests. Some of our favorites for scientists interested in policy and communications consulting include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).
Step Two: Make the First Contact
Before reaching out, do some research on the person and have a specific goal in mind. Include these expectations in your first message so your contacts know what is being asked of them. Here are some tips:
- Don’t put them on the spot by asking for a job recommendation before you even get to know each other. Instead, ask for advice or information, and let any job help happen naturally.
- Respect their time by keeping your messages brief and making sure your expectations are reasonable. Offer different options for connecting: sticking to email or LinkedIn, setting up a brief phone call, or meeting for a quick coffee.
- Ask advice on the best way to learn more about their professional networks. For example, at Ripple Effect, we encourage people to follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or subscribe to our listserv.
- Always follow up with a personalized thank you note within 24 hours of your conversation.
Step Three: Maintain Your Relationships
Ultimately, your networking goal should be to develop genuine, lasting relationships. The more meaningful your interactions are, the more likely it is that your contacts will put their personal reputation on the line and vouch for you as a job candidate. Find natural ways to stay in touch: send them a news item that’s relevant to something you discussed before, reach out to ask if they’re attending an upcoming career-related event, or think about ways that you can add value to the relationship.
Though networking may feel uncomfortable at first, you will quickly get better with practice, and it will pay off in the long run!
Be sure to check back on our Future Rippler site for new job-related articles each month or sign up for our listserv to get job-related information right to your inbox.
Questions? We’re happy to help! Share your job-related or career questions via email, then check the site for answers to our favorite FAQs.