Celebrating 40 Years of ExcellencePhoto of SCCC studentsEducation That Works
Schenectady County Community College

           The term "networking" has become a staple in the vocabulary of job-search over the past several years,
           but if you ask people for their definitions of the term, you may get a wide variety of answers. In the
           context of this paper, networking means "constructively using your personal and professional contacts
           to advance your job-search." That's it; plain and simple.

           Now that we have answered the first unasked question about what it is, let's look at why it's important.
           In our experience, the three most important reasons for networking are:

                1.It is the principal means of access to the unpublished job market (what we called job
                opportunities in another paper).
                2. It has the highest probability for success (statistically) among the four pathways to a new job.
                3. It is the best way, in our opinion, to effect direct contact with a targeted company (as
                opposed to writing or sending an unsolicited resume).

           The process of networking has become fairly well-defined over time, so there is nothing particularly
           mysterious about it. We believe it should start with developing a list of your primary contacts, i.e.,
           everyone you know who also knows you. That's our definition of a primary contact.

           Rather than trying to put down one long sequential list of people, we recommend you first develop a set
           of categories: one for each aspect of your life that brings and has brought you in contact with other
           people; for example, Family/Relatives, Friends, Neighbors, Social Acquaintances, School Classmates,
           Organization (e.g., ACM) Members, Co-Workers, Doctor/Dentist/ Lawyer/Accountant, Real
           Estate/Insurance Agents, Clergy, Business Owners, Professional Colleagues, Consultants, Teachers,
           Associates in Extracurricular/ Sporting/Club/Recreational Activitie s, etc. The average person has about
           200 contacts.

           When you have your categories in mind, then you can start to list the names of people. Beside each
           person's name, we recommend you put the number 1, 2, or 3: that represents the number of times you
           can go to this person without wearing out your welcome. The 3 means 3-or-more. This will alert you to
           the risk of making contact with a 1 or a 2 before you are fully prepared and know exactly what you want
           from that person. We also recommend you designate any "High-Potential" contacts with an *, to help
           you prioritize your sources. High-Potential contacts are key people in prominent positions who
           themselves have large networks and/or high-level contacts of their own (e.g., a business executive,
           college president, etc.). Thus, those with "3*" represent your most favorable networking situations,
           because they are high-potential contacts who you can use 3-or-more times.

           The next step is called Contact Development, where as the term suggests, you develop your contacts
           through personal, one-to-one meetings (if local) or by telephone (if remote). You would typically use
           your 15-20-second telephone introduction (see Speaking of Yourself after this chapter) to set up the
           meeting. We can't give you a "cookie-cutter" agenda for these meetings or phone conversations, as
           each may depend on the person and the circumstances, but they usually share a common, threefold
           objective of obtaining:

              1.Relevant information that will help in your job search;
              2.Leads on job openings and job opportunities; and
              3.Referrals to other people who may be able to help (we call these secondary contacts).

           How you get these will largely depend on your skill as an interviewer, or as a contact developer, but a
           "brute force" approach seldom works and often gives networking a bad taste with someone who's been
           approached that way. We recommend you plan each meeting thoughtfully; be diplomatic and
           professional; demonstrate the personal qualities you are selling to a potential employer; be respectful of
           the person's time; be direct and forthright about your situation; ask open-ended questions that may
           spark a recollection of something relevant. Some of the words you might use selectively in your
           questioning are for the contact's: advice, comments, criticism, ideas, insights, observations, opinions
           (people like to be asked their opinions), reactions, recommendations, suggestions, thoughts, etc.

           In our experience the single, most common reason for lack of success in objectives 1 or 2 above is the
           failure to get the contact intellectually involved in the subject matter, which is you, your career, your
           next job. Even if you are unsuccessful in these two objectives, you should try to get at least two
           referrals, who become secondary contacts, from every meeting. These referrals will in turn expand your
           network dramatically. If each of 200 contacts gives you two referrals, that can lead to a 600-person
           network, triple the number of your primary contacts!

           Another form of networking that can be very productive is in the group environment of organizations:
           professional associations, societies, clubs, etc.; at such events as conferences, seminars, symposia,
           exhibitions, and trade shows. Here is where your 30-second commercial comes in handy, during a
           chance encounter with someone who may represent of useful source of information, job leads, and
           referrals. These are the same three objectives as above, but if you sense the person may be a valuable
           contact or future use, we recommend using the brief encounter to schedule a follow-up meeting or
           phone call in a more private setting.

           Because this subject of networking can be so important to a job search, is often misunderstood or
           misused, and is difficult for many people, we want to offer you the opportunity to discuss your
           networking concerns directly. If you would like to do so, please let us know by e-mail, fax, or letter; and
           we will give a time and date to call.

Speaking of Yourself:

           You can have the most impressive array of skills and strengths, have them captured in a great resume,
           and be highly focused on your targeted job or career direction; but unless you can also communicate
           orally about yourself and your abilities, you cannot be completely effective. Unfortunately, some people,
           like those trained in the science and technologies, (not you, of course) may not place a significant value
           on the need to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. They may feel that their technical
           prowess should speak for itself, on paper. If so, they are neglecting one of the most important facets of a
           well-run job-search: speaking about who they are, what they do best, and how they can contribute.

           Of course, much of your communications in a job-search needs to be spontaneous, and the more you
           know about yourself, the easier this is. In an interview or similar discussion, you can only anticipate so
           much, with prepared answers. But there are three situations in networking and interviewing where we
           have found it useful to have a thoughtfully developed, mini-presentation ready for instant use. In all
           three cases the emphasis should be on brevity and clarity.

           The first and shortest of these is a 15-20 second telephone introduction, the object of which is to
           prepare the other person for a purposeful discussion about your career or job-search. That person could
           be a friend, a colleague, an associate, a relative, or someone to whom you have been referred; and the
           ensuing discussion could be by telephone or in a face-to-face meeting.   Know that the telephone
           introduction should say briefly who you are, why you are calling, and what you want. For example:

                "Hi Joe, this is Bill Smith. We knew each other a few years ago while working together on
                the systems conversion project at XYZ. My reason for calling is that I'm in the process of
                making an important career move, and I'd like very much to get your opinion about the
                direction I'm taking. I know you're busy, and I promise not to take much of your time.
                Would you be available for a brief discussion some day next week?" Or if Joe is remote
                from your area, and you cannot meet in person: "Do you have a few minutes to talk now
                or would you prefer me to call back at a more convenient time?"

           Obviously, this is only an example, and your words need to be tailored and relevant to your particular
           situation. Let's also take an example of a student:

                Hello, Mr. Jones. This is Bill Smith. You know my father, John, who suggested that you
                might me able to give me some advice. I'm about to graduate (or I've just graduated) from
                Schenectady County Community College, and am in the process of developing my career plans. I
                know you're experienced in the (business, corporate, industry, academic, etc.) world and I'd really
                appreciate a few minutes of your time. Could I drop by your office sometime next week?"

           Again, this is only to illustrate the message; you need to develop your own words that fit your situation
           and needs.

           The next example is best described as a 30-second "commercial", slightly longer and designed to
           evoke some spontaneous interest in your situation. We like to think of this as something you do
           standing up, such as at a gathering, a professional meeting, a social event, or any other place that
           brings you into incidental contact with other people. When you meet someone, the question that
           ultimately is posed to you is "What do you do?" or "What kind of business are you in?" Here is an
           example of a possible response:

                "Thanks for asking. I'm in the information technology business. For the past seven years,
                I've worked in data base administration for the XYZ company, most recently as the
                department manager. I'm currently looking for new opportunities in this same field,
                preferably here in the Metropolis area, where there is a need for experience and skill in
                relational data base management systems. Are you familiar with this field and might you
                have any suggestions of either companies or people I should be talking to?"

           Or a student might say something like:

                "I'm glad you asked. I've just graduated from Schenectady County Community College with a degree
                in Computer Science. I'm really interested in exploring my career options in the software development
                area, which looks very promising from everything I've read. Do you know anything about
                the field, or have any ideas about some companies in this area I should be talking with?"

           Here again, you should have a well-developed, concise story, with just enough key words to gain the
           other person's attention, but not so long or detailed to become boring. If in the space of a few minutes
           discussion, you determine that this person could be an asset to your search, we recommend that you
           not try to have a full discussion on the spot, but rather take the opportunity to arrange a one-to-one
           meeting or phone conversation in the next few days. That will give you time to prepare and enable you
           to move on, meet, and introduce yourself to other people at the event.

           Finally, there is what is known as the "Two-Minute Drill." No, this is not the same as what the
           professional football team does just before the end of the first or second half, but the timing is similar.
           The Two-Minute Drill should be thought of as the response to the most common request, often the very
           first, made by an interviewer: "Tell me about yourself." Even though the person may have your resume,
           he/she is asking as a convenient way to get the interview started and to judge how you present

           So, how should you respond? In our opinion, we believe one is well-served by a well-rehearsed
           chronology of the early years, education, work experience, most recent job, and a sprinkling of the
           most significant accomplishments along the way; keeping it upbeat and positive, finishing on a high
           note with a view toward the future and the next job. Here is an example:

                "I'd be pleased to. I grew up in southern Illinois and after a year of college was appointed
                to the Naval Academy, where I graduated with a commission in Naval Intelligence. After
                seven years on active duty, I was recruited by the IBM Corporation in Washington, DC. I
                enjoyed a 25-year career with IBM, half of which was in marketing and account
                management, working directly with customers; the other half was at corporate
                headquarters in staff management assignments. The most recent of those was in
                Technical Personnel Development, where I created and managed a career transition
                program that enabled technical professionals to launch a second career in academe.
                Over three years, I guided and counseled more than 250 people successfully through the
                process. In doing so, I realized a high degree of satisfaction and reward from working with
                people on their careers and their next jobs. So when I became eligible for early
                retirement, I started my next career in helping professionals through their own transitions
                in the computing and information technology field. I believe my background and
                experience could be very valuable to your business here at the XYZ Company. What do
                you think?"

           And if you're a student, perhaps this will give you some ideas:

                "Sure. I'm originally from the Capital District area, where I went to high school and graduated with
                honors. I knew that I wanted to major in Computer Science and received an excellent hands-on
                learning experience here at Schenectady County Community College. I've excelled in all academic
                areas and feel especially well-qualified in the subjects of data structures and data base design. Just as
                important, I've also managed to maintain a productive part-time job, where I've worked on and
                contributed to a variety of software development projects. Last summer I competed for
                and won an internship at the ABC Company, which gave me the opportunity to interface
                directly with users in a problem-solving role. In assessing my skills and career objectives,
                I've developed a focus on the data base design area. That's where I would like to start my
                career and where I think I can make the most immediate contribution to a business like
                yours. Does that sound reasonable?"

           Notice the positive, upbeat tone of both these examples. Notice that each tells a brief, cohesive story
           and makes discrete points pertinent to one's career. Notice the way they conclude, each with a view
           toward the future, and with a leading question that suggests the relevance of one's background to the
           interviewer's business. Remember though, these are merely examples, suggested only to facilitate your
           understanding, and not represented as perfect models. There are no perfect models. Each person
           should develop his or her own version based on their unique backgrounds and objectives.