Five ways to get off to a great start with informal networking

1. Be ready to ask for help!  Turns out that one of the more powerful human instincts is the urge to help.  If you’re trying to build a network in a specific industry, be ready to ask for help!  Simple phrases such as “I was looking for help in connecting with…” can go a long way to making introductions a reality.

2. Invest in LinkedIn Premium.  Now that you’re ready to ask for help, you’ll want to look around for the appropriate connections.  LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people. However, you may want to upgrade for a time so that people do not know you’ve been checking out their profile.  See our LinkedIn for MBA Students materials for more information. 

3. Be clear on why you want to meet. It doesn’t need to be complicated or convey 100% clarity about your future, however, you want to be clear about why you are asking someone for their time.  Are you simply wanting to learn more about a specific industry and have a contact?  Tell them what stage you’re at in your research and what types of questions you are thinking about.  NOTE: make sure that the questions are ones that you can’t simply answer from the company website. Instead, ask the interviewer their advice or perspective on how things are in the industry, or how things have changed recently.

4. Prepare some effective questions.  Start by identifying what is important to you and prepare questions that will help you to assess how important that is in a job. If you haven’t already done the ProValues exercise, it will offer some personalized networking questions for you.

5. Remember the simple things!  Show up on time. Send a thank-you note (if you don’t have great personal stationery, you might want to get some for simple note cards). Offer to buy their coffee. The people you want to meet with are busy, but they do love to help.