Networking time

BY COLLEEN CALLAHAN, ELON IMEDIA CLASS OF  2010

Hello all!

The holiday time also means it’s  job networking time, where graduating seniors and iMedia students are thinking heavily about life after graduation.

Now that I’m in the working world, I’ve been on the other side of networking–where people have reached out to me, asking about my job and for advice. While flattering, I’ve also been surprised at the networking skills I’ve seen–and not in a good way. Below are several examples of how people reached out to me, and what they could’ve done to receive more productive results.

1. LinkedIn Etiquette

As you may know, I am a big fan of LinkedIn and think it’s one of the best ways to reach and research people. However, I’ve had several people from high school that I haven’t talked to in six years reach out to me. That’s definitely fine, but if you reach out to people you haven’t talked to in forever, leave a courteous note rather than the standard “John Doe would like to connect with you.” If you don’t leave something personalized, it just seems like you are greedy for their connections. I take my connections seriously (as should you), since connections can most likely see each other and contact one another.

Another example includes someone who reached out to me on LinkedIn (without a personal message, yet again) that I had previously asked for networking advice on an internship they had. After several attempts on my part to reach this person, I never heard back. Then three months later they invite to link with me. It’s strange because they didn’t help me before in any shape or form (not even a “sorry, there’s nothing I can do”)…so why should I help them? Aside from leaving a personalized message, another point of advice is when people first reach out to network with you, you should always respond, even if you can’t exactly help them. You never know where they may end up.

2. Follow Up

This is another story about people I haven’t talked to in years. I had an old friend contact me out of the blue, saying they were interested in California, the industry I’m in, and the company I work for. It was a very courteous note. They didn’t ask me for a job, just simply some information. That’s a good step in itself. I was excited because I liked this person and wanted to reconnect, so I told them calling me would be the best way to get a hold of me and we could talk that way. They said they’d call the following day, but never did. Four weeks later and I still haven’t heard from them. Now, because I haven’t talked to this person in a long time I really have no idea what their work ethic is like or what they’ve done. All I know about them right now is they don’t follow up and they must really not be interested in the information they were seeking after all. If I were to hear of job openings, I would not be able to recommend them because of what little I know about them currently.

3. Asking for favors

This particular story I have is about contacting people for things other than networking advice. Long ago, I had a friend who since has changed a lot and hasn’t been my friend for a long time. That definitely happens–people change and grow apart, it’s a fact of life. However, out of the blue one of this old friend’s relatives (who I haven’t spoken to in over 10 years) called me asking for free tickets to a sold out show for a popular musician. I can’t get these tickets anyway, but I couldn’t believe someone that I haven’t talked to in 10 years, and with whom I don’t have a connection anymore would straight-up just ask for a favor. If you would like a favor such as this, at least be polite and ask the person how they are doing and what they’ve been up to. Also offer to help the person helping you with something in return. I also really would only recommend that you ask favors from people you know and are friends with.

Those are just a few examples of what I’ve encountered, but the main point I see from these examples is when you’re networking be courteous, gracious, and include personalization. Networking can last a long time, but you have to start it off on the right foot.

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