Building your Professional Network
Networking can be as formal as registering with an employer-paid employment agency or as informal as talking with a friend’s dad at a backyard barbecue. In any case, networking is about effectively communicating who you are, what job-related, transferable, and self-management skills you have, and in what career areas you are prepared to work.
Think about how you can communicate your interests:
- What is your passion?
- What field, product, or service motivates you?
- What do you enjoy researching or studying?
- What current events capture your attention?
Your ability to convey a passion or genuine enthusiasm about your career goals in your conversation will naturally inspire you and those around you. Networking is also about listening to people and asking the right questions to learn how they might be connected to your career goals, or whom they may know who can help you. Be careful not to drop the ball once you have been given advice or a lead to follow. Act on a lead as soon as possible and communicate back to the person who helped you. Send a thank you note to anyone who has helped you.
Identify Your Contacts
Make a list of people to develop your network and add names to your list with every new contact. Wise preparation combined with a motivation to succeed will enable you to overcome any fear.
Develop your network by securing contact information of individuals from sources such as:
- References – ask five people who would be willing to talk to potential employers about you
- Professionals with whom your references suggest you connect – ask them for at least two names they think you should contact
- Professors, coaches, former employers, relatives, friends, church members, and any resulting recommendations
- Human resource directors, public relations officials, and public information specialists
- Members of professional associations
- Community service agencies or chambers of commerce
- Alumni contacts
- Credible networking/job search groups
- Internship/career fairs and other networking events that offer opportunities to make contacts
Suggestion before making contact:
Write an outline of what you want to say; this will decrease any fears you might have and ensure you obtain the information you are seeking. You will be perceived as organized and professional.
By Phone – When calling to schedule an appointment:
Introduce yourself stating your full name and credentials (your year in school, number of years of work experience, your major and areas of career interest)
If you are calling as a result of a referral, state that person’s name clearly in the conversation
State the purpose, (their opinion of your resume and answers to your prepared eight questions) for a 15 minute appointment sometime within the next two weeks
Record the appointment information in your planner.
By Letter or E-mail – A letter or e-mail should include:
Personal introduction and mention a referral’s name if appropriate
Purpose for seeking the appointment
Mention you will follow-up with a phone call within the week to ask if you can schedule a date and time within the next two weeks for a 15 minute appointment
- Review cover letter samples
- Type all letters in business format, checking for grammar and spelling errors
Ask someone else to proof your work
Indicate in the concluding paragraph that you will be calling on a specific date to arrange for a convenient appointment time (one week after you mail the letter)
Maintain an organized file system of all letters sent with your follow-up notes
Understand Informational Interviewing
Once you have identified people with whom you wish to speak, you can plan to request an information interview with them. To do this, ask a contact if you can schedule to meet with them for 15 minutes to answer questions about their work. Also ask if they will review your resume and offer any advice. Your objectives during an informational interview are to gather career information from a professional in your field of interest, discover where you might fit in an organization, and pursue leads provided as a result of your meeting.
Once the 15 minutes has passed, thank the person and ask for their business card. Ask them to provide you with the names of two people you might also meet with for an information interview. Prepare to stand up to leave. Chances are the person might ask you to continue talking with them, but at least you were courteous, professional and true to your word.
Send a thank you note within 48 hours mentioning you have appointments, (or have at least left voice mails requesting appointments), with both leads you were given and will let them know the results of the meetings.
The 30 Most Important Interview Questions
While many employees are enjoying spending their PTO on vacation in a remote country or hitting the beach, many Americans are on the job hunt. No matter the time of year, recruiters are scouring the web looking for top talent and it is a perfect use of your Summer Fridays to apply to a new gig.
Once you’ve found roles you’re interested in on Glassdoor, Indeed or others, and clicked apply, it’s time to gear up for the interviews. Review the possible questions that recruiters and hiring managers will ask, but also prepare a list of questions to ask of them. It’s important to spend time figuring out if a company is a right fit for you.
Here’s your interview cheat sheet:
Exploring the Role
Get beyond the basic job description and ask questions that probe deeper into the details of the job, expectations, success metrics and the infrastructure that would support the role.
1. How does this position contribute to the organization’s success?
2. What do you hope I will accomplish in this position?
3. What is the team structure?
4. Can I speak to others on the team or shadow a team member before I proceed?
5. What support would this position have?
Digging Into Company Culture
As much as an interview is about assessing your ability to be a culture fit, it is also about gathering as much information and insight into the company culture. You need to understand whether the company is a fit for your values, passions and interests.
6. What was the department’s biggest challenge last year and what did you learn from it?
7. How much time do the owners/leaders/founders spend in the office?
8. What do people on the team that I’d be joining do for lunch every day?
9. What was the last big achievement that was celebrated?
10. Does the company give back to the community? In what ways?
11. What continuing learning opportunities do you have for your employees?
Salary Structure and Compensation Details
During an interview is the perfect time to ask informed and important questions about compensation. No, it’s not presumptive or rude; in fact, it’s an important factor in your decision-making process.
12. What is the salary range for this role?
13. Besides the base pay, what other benefits are negotiable?
14. What’s the outlook for salary raises or promotions?
15. What metrics do you use to evaluate the success of your employees?
16. Can I get the salary offer in writing?
17. If I don’t choose stock options, would there be an opportunity for higher wage compensation or other benefits?
18. What percentage of the company’s stock do these options make up?
19. What happens to my stock options if the company is acquired?
Health Insurance Essentials
These days, healthcare is a hot topic of conversation. And while no one can predict what will happen on a federal government level, it’s vital to get specifics on the health insurance package offered by your potential employer. This is especially important if you have health challenges, family dependents or are planning to start a family.
20. Does the company offer a HMO or PPO or both?
21. What is the waiting period before the plan kicks in?
22. Do you have a summary of health insurance plans you’re offering?
23. Is there a monthly premium? What about deductibles?
Drill down on the everyday tasks and expectations for the job you’re applying to. These questions are perfect to ask your potential manager or another leader on the team.
24. Tell me about the typical day-to-day of this position.
25. What are the team’s work hours? Are there any specific requirements for time in the office?
26. Do employees control the structure of their goals and tasks?
27. How does management deliver feedback to employees?
From learning labs to formal mentorship programs, get a sense of what the company offers in the way professional growth and development opportunities. After all, if you proceed with this company, you want to know that you have a future there and opportunities to be challenged.
28. Do you have a formal mentorship program or are there mentors available?
29. How have you had the ability to grow in your role?
30. What does “climbing the ladder” look like at this company? Is there a clear path of ascension?
Remember to stay positive throughout the job search and ask as many questions as are necessary for you to get to find a job you love.