A Shy Kid’s Guide to Networking

image source: http://www.spectra-events.com/2011/02/networking-tips-for-introverts/

image source: http://www.spectra-events.com/2011/02/networking-tips-for-introverts/

 

This guest post was written by Lana Cook, a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University

I have always been on the shy side, an introvert in today’s parlance.  I grew up with my nose in a book.  Though I played with the neighborhood kids and joined team sports, I savored those solitary afternoons reading Anne of Green Gables for the twelfth time.  No small wonder that I went into an English Ph.D. program. So when this bookish introvert hears that ‘networking is the key to success,’ my first reaction is to cringe.  Palms begin to sweat, nightmarish visions of spilling my drink on a distinguished guest, fears of interrupting a conversation or appearing stupid cloud my mind with self-doubt.   But, then I remember what networking is at its basis:  the exchange of ideas with like-minded people.

Keeping that premise in mind, my confidence has grown as I now see the tangible benefits of meeting new people to circulate ideas, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities.  The risks are minimal, but the rewards can be potentially life changing.  Here are my tips for networking, even as an introvert:

Go To Events

This should be no-brainer, but it took me a while before I felt comfortable attending events alone. Be on the lookout for conferences, symposiums, workshops, speakers and panels to attend. Leave an impression by making an effort to speak to a few people. Sometimes I will make goals to meet a set number of people.  At first it may be forced, but eventually striking up conversations with strangers becomes natural.  People are attending these events for often the same reasons: to connect with others, build communities, and exchange ideas.

Stay For the Reception

Post-event receptions are a great time to network.  People are more relaxed and willing to meet new people over a few nibbles and beverages.  Don’t feel like you have to stay until the bitter end, and be careful not to overindulge on alcoholic drinks. You want to make an impression while you are there, but keep that impression positive and professional.

Be Yourself

This advice is a bit cliché, but is often repeated because it’s true.  Though sometimes we have to channel our inner confidence by ‘faking it until you make it,’ make sure that performance still rings true to who you are.  Posturing as someone you are not will not only feel disingenuous to others, but can also lead you astray of your own values.

Get Your “About You” Down

Though you should act naturally, it is also a good idea to have a basic script to share when people ask you about yourself.  Many recommend having an elevator speech, a quick five minute summary about yourself and your work. For myself, that’s a few sentences describing my educational background, current research project and career goals. This summary should not be robotic; think about it as a customizable personal statement that reflects your individual personality and makes you stand out from the sea of people in the room.  When speaking to people outside your field, avoid using disciplinary jargon and try to appeal to overlapping interests and shared goals.

image source: http://www.blogging4jobs.com/work/work-place-drama-gossip-problems/

image source: blogging4jobs.com

Watch the Gossip

It is easy to get caught up in office gossip, and some experts say that a little gossip can help us strengthen networks. But, when meeting new people, avoid talking negatively about others, your department or company.  It is a small world and word can travel quickly through our interconnected communities.  Negativity will reflect back on you. You want to be remembered for your positive energy, intelligence and ideas, not as the person who spreads malice or rumors.

Follow Up On New Contacts

After meeting new people, follow up by adding them on LinkedIn accompanied by a short personalized message.  If you meet them again in person, do not be discouraged if they do not remember your name or even face.  Reintroduce yourself and graciously refresh their memory about your last meeting. For example, if you met them at a conference recently, ask them what they thought about the keynote speaker or how their research is progressing.

Keep an Open Mind

I have learned that networking is a lifelong process with its own ebbs and flows of activity.  An open mind allows you to take in the flow of that experience rather than predetermining events and closing yourself off to others.  So, take a deep breath, put on a smile, and get your fabulous professional self out there.

Join me the first Thursday of the month here on The Works as I countdown to graduation.  My final post will reflect on my graduate school experience and the value of finishing up one chapter of your life before beginning another.

Lana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin. You can view her portfolio at LanaCook.net.

4 Professional Skills You Can Gain By Blogging

Check out my own blog if you're into that kind of thing, http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

Check out my own blog if you’re into that kind of thing, http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

When you tell someone you have a blog, the conversation can go down a lot of different paths:

“Oh, so you spill your guts on the Internet and I should run far away from you?” Nope.

“Oh, so you get a bunch of free stuff?” Not really. I mean, sometimes. But usually not.

“Oh… that’s nice.”

Opinions on blogging run the gamut, but over the past few years, blogging has established itself as an effective tool for engaging in public conversations. People in every industry use it to communicate ideas, and young professionals can establish valuable career skills by taking on some WordPress time.

Establishing (And Keeping) A Strong Network: As a blogger, some of your greatest collaborators are other bloggers. Having these connections can be mutually beneficial for support, advice, and everyday inspiration. Keeping up with a network can be a challenge, so this skill will serve you well in the professional world.

Hint: Keep a contacts spreadsheet of other professionals in your space. Make sure you have their name, email address, blog URL, twitter handle, (and a few notes about them if you tend to forget things) so you can send out some support or an article they might find interesting.

Supporting Peers: In the professional world, you rarely go it alone. There are always people along the way to support you, and you can foster those relationships by supporting. The blogging world is no different, and bloggers are involved in that on a micro level by sharing content from other bloggers. It benefits your readers by providing them with interesting content, and it allows you to provide some love to other bloggers.

Hint: Every day or every other day, share content written by other professionals in your industry on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Marketing: Even if you have the best stories in the world, or the most creative DIY projects known to man, it’s not going to make an impact if no one can see it. Learning to market effectively and appropriately is crucial for bloggers. Bloggers can use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+ like champs without breaking a sweat, a useful skill for establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Hint: Hootsuite – it’s a big deal. Using the free version, you can post to all of your social media channels at once, schedule future posts, and save yourself lots of time.

Listening & Reacting: Being hooked up to the Internet makes you realize that people stop caring about things quickly. Really quickly. No one wants to talk about Pharrell’s hat at the Grammy’s anymore (even though we should never stop talking about that). As a blogger it’s important to listen to the Internet – what’s trending on Twitter, what people are sharing on Facebook. Being receptive to new trends is a great skill for the workplace, ensuring that your ideas are always timely and innovative.

Hint: Set up a Google Alert for your niche. If you are a travel blogger focused on luxury trips with a low price tag, set up a Google Alert for “cheap travel” or “traveling on a budget.”  If you are a marketing professional focused on fashion brands, set up a Google Alert for “social media fashion brands.” At the end of every week (or every day, depending on your preference), Google will send you an up-to-date list of what influencers in your niche are talking about. This keeps your content relevant and helps you avoid stale topics.

Blogging allows you to create a network of people who can challenge you creatively and intellectually by sharing ideas online. This exchange can keep you sharp and in-tune with current events, and can boost your skills in the workplace.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

How One International Student Successfully Landed a Job in the US

Northeastern is special because it has a large number of international students that enrich the culture of and provide a global perspective to our campus.  However, international students sometimes express anxiety about the US job search process. “If I want to stay in the US post-graduation, what should I do to prepare and be successful in the US job search?”, is a question I consistently hear from international students.  I had the opportunity to sit down with a Northeastern alum, Henry Nsang, who hails from Cameroon, Africa, to provide insight and advice on how to successfully land a US position as an international student.  He received his BS in civil engineering and MS in Environmental engineering in 2010 and 2013, respectively, and gained employment from Boston-based construction management and consulting firm, Janey.

source: www.cbsnews.com

source: www.cbsnews.com

What do you do in your current position?

I am a project engineer at Janey, which means that I basically do a little bit of everything.  Primarily, I am in charge of cost analysis and project control.  I guess the best word to use that sums up everything I do is construction management.

How did you get that position?

Networking. I cannot emphasize networking more—make sure you leverage your network and be truthful about your international student status.  This will save the company and you a lot of time if you are just upfront about it. For my current position, Richard Harris, an assistant dean in the College of Engineering who I was able to forge a relationship with, knows my current boss. I checked out the company and was interested in it, so I applied and Mr. Harris was able to put in a good word for me.  I had three interviews with the company, and I was very open about my long-term and short-term goals.  I know that I want to gain a couple years of work experience here and then go back to Cameroon, and I think they appreciated that I was up front about that.  My co-op experience was extremely helpful in my interview since I was able to talk about my work experience and how that directly applied to the position.  I could also show that I was adaptable, since I had a background participating in clubs that focused on different things, and I could show that I could manage competing priorities appropriately.   So, I would say that gaining experience, co-ops or internships, and being parts of groups and activities are extremely important for the job search process—the more people that can vouch for you and your work, the better.

When did you bring up your international student status?

I was very straightforward and brought it up in the first interview. Integrity is something that anyone would value.  Also, the delivery of your international status to the employer is important. Don’t express it as a burden.  If you present a problem, also address a solution to the problem.  For example, I get about two years of OPT as someone who studied a discipline in a STEM field, so I let my current company know that I do not need sponsorship for at least two years during the interview.  At the end of those two years, they would be able to determine if they liked my work enough to sponsor me for an H1B.

How many jobs did you apply to?

I probably sent out 300 applications. I know that is a large number, but I made sure that I was qualified for all the jobs I sent out.  I was also looking in areas outside of Boston, which added to my number of applications. I went on about twelve interviews from 7 different companies. I made sure that my LinkedIn profile was spiffed up.  I also worked with a recruiter from Aerotek who took my resume, interviewed me, and then started to send my resume out.  I found that I got interviews from larger companies who knew about sponsoring. The smaller companies may not be aware that you don’t have to sponsor international students from the beginning.  Some people are more informed than others about H1B and OPT.

What advice do you have for international students looking to get a job in the US?

Know exactly what you want and prepare yourself to the best of your ability.  Make sure that you have applied for OPT and paid the application fee.  You don’t want to get a job offer and then realize that you can’t actually work.  Exploit every option you have—LinkedIn was a big tool for me and really supplemented my resume.  If you fill it out right and appropriately, you could get job interviews from recruiters through LinkedIn. Also, don’t let a “no” stop you.  Sometimes you get rejections, but you shouldn’t let that stop you. A rejection is just a means to an end and part of the entire process.   Make sure that you continue to send out applications, and that you match their skill set and what they’re looking for.

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development.  A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.

Making Positive Impressions

This guest post was written by Katie McCune, a Career Development Assistant at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s also a Career Assistant at MIT.

Not too long ago, I was getting ready for my next big adventure: moving cross-country from my home-state of Colorado to New England. We all experience starting something completely new at different phases of our life whether it’s first coming to college, going on a new co-op, getting our first job, or even moving cross-country. With each new change, there are also opportunities to meet new people. There are a lot of great ways you can make good personal and professional impressions, but here’s what meeting a lot of new people has reminded me:

A smile goes a long way.

source: www.quickmeme.com

source: www.quickmeme.com

My “big move” was for school, so like many of you when I first arrived, I was meeting peers, professors, and administrative staff as well people through clubs and sports teams. The people who I initially developed connections with were the ones that smiled. Yep, simple as that, they smiled.  Research has consistently shown that body language is a major factor in how we interpret somebody’s words. With one nearly effortless action, you can demonstrate to your new co-op boss (or anyone else) that you are friendly, confident, and invested in them.

Always follow through.

Think about a time when you were just getting to know somebody, set up plans with them and then they flaked out. How did this affect your opinion of them? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you didn’t end up becoming besties–It feels crappy when somebody misses a meeting with you or doesn’t get in touch when they say they will. Why? Because it can signal that we’re not a priority in those people’s lives.

Before you agree to something, whether it’s sending an email, showing up for a 9am meeting, or taking on a big project, be sure that you can actually do it. By doing what you say you’re going to do, you will demonstrate that you are reliable, organized, and respectful—all qualities that are helpful in any professional or personal setting.

Be a good listener.

A lot of times when we think about meeting new people, we focus on what we are going to say. For example, if you’ve practiced for an interview, I bet you went over your answers, but did you think about how you were going to show the employer that you were listening? While presentation skills are important, listening skills can be just as important, if not more. By asking good questions, remembering what people say, and actively listening, you can make the other person feel valued and demonstrate that you’re present and ready to learn.

source: http://wallippo.com

source: http://wallippo.com

All interactions reinforce or undermine the first impression.

You’ve probably heard that first impressions matter—and they totally do! But it’s important to remember that the first time you meet somebody isn’t the only time you’re making an impression with them. If you forgot to smile this time, do it next time. If you followed through this time, that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to do the same next time.

It can be intimidating to make new connections especially in a professional setting, but remember that it’s just like all of your other interactions. Be the person that you would want to meet, and you’ll be golden! Share with us, what are other things people have done to make positive impressions on you?

Katie is a Career Development Assistant at NU with a background in sociology. A teacher at heart, she loves leading workshops–in addition to the career workshops, she’d gladly teach you how to hula-hoop, how to organize your house/office/desk, or how millennials can make great employees. Email her at k.mccune@neu.edu.

Don’t Limit Yourself and Remember Alumni are Your Friends.

Northeastern alums at GE pose during a networking event

Northeastern alums at GE pose during a networking event

This guest post was written by NU alum, Elizabeth Rallo. She graduated from DMBS in 1993 and is now working for General Electric as the Project Manager for the Newtown Recovery Team.

General Electric (GE) is a household name with locations across the globe, but they only hire engineers, right? Wrong. The company is comprised of several businesses that cut across a number of industries and to keep these businesses running, there are positions in finance, supply chain management, sales, IT, etc. that all need to be filled. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

I’m not an engineer. I graduated from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business (DMSB‘93) and the thing that I want students to know is that just because a company is in a particular sector, perhaps one outside of what you’re studying, it doesn’t mean that the organization should be knocked off your target list.  Think about it – all companies need finance, marketing, IT and communications departments (for example) to function successfully, right?  So don’t limit yourself!

Don’t take for granted the alumni network and how they can help you, not only in your job search, but even for simple informational interviews so that you can learn more about a particular field.  In fact, there are over 600+ Northeastern alumni at GE and, as alums, the best thing that we can offer you is our endorsement of the company as a great place to work.  Did you know the current CFO of GE is a Northeastern Alum! Jeff Bornstein has been a strong advocate for Northeastern and he is active in NU recruiting activities. Take advantage of Linkedin, you can do a quick search and see all the GE employees who are Northeastern Alumni. Reach out to us! Start the conversation-we want you here!

With such a buzz going around about finding a candidate that is ‘the right fit’ for a company, we’d like to think it’s a bit of reassurance for you that if other Northeastern alums are enjoying working at GE, then maybe it could be the right fit for you too.

GE-logoBecause GE is such a massive company however, campus recruiting requires some serious coordination.  We believe strongly in GE as an innovative and exciting company to work for and in Northeastern students as some of the top talent out there.  Our recruiting team is passionate about both NU and GE, and we volunteer our time to bring the brightest and the best to join us at GE.

Andrea Cox and I, along with our colleague and fellow Northeastern alum, Pete McCabe, E’88, Vice President of Global Services,  work along with 30 NU alums who volunteer their time and talents to meet with students, conduct on-campus interviews, and build an overall awareness of GE at Northeastern.  So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the full-time, internship and co-op jobs we recruit for at Northeastern and the next time we’re on-campus holding office hours, be sure to reserve a spot to come down and say hello!

Author Elizabeth Rallo, DMSB'93 Newtown Recovery Team, Project Manager

Elizabeth Rallo, 
Newtown Recovery Team, Project Manager

Elizabeth Rallo graduated from Northeastern in 1993 as an International Business and Finance major. Her previous CO-OP’s were at IBM, IBM Credit and also Bear Stearns. She decided on GE Capital due to the fact that the company struck her as innovative and would support her personal creativity.  She has been at GE 20 years and GE has afforded her the opportunity to succeed both personally and professionally.  Currently, Elizabeth is on temporary assignment supporting the Recovery of Newtown Ct., following the horrific tragedy that occurred in December of 2012. She would need to write a whole other blog to tell you about this experience!

She encourages you to “get creative” at GE. Check them out at www.ge.com and see for yourself!

Career Fair Tips from Angela (the bio major)

Career FairThis post was written by Angela Vallillo, senior biology major on the pre-medical track.

Hi all! My name is Angela and I am a senior graduating this year with a degree in biology! I’m graduating early, which is scary and exciting at the same time. It leads me to the issue of finding a job and figuring out what to do with my life in a pretty short amount of time. That being said, a great resource for everyone looking for a job or seeing what’s out there is the Spring Career Fair held by career services on Thursday, February 6th in Cabot Cage from 12PM-4PM. There will be over 150 employers looking for people like you and LinkedIn photo ops!

I hold a work-study job at Career Development (formally Career Services) and have helped organize and run the past two career fairs. That being said, I have a few tips for students planning on attending:

  1. The most important piece of information that I can give you is to research the company before the fair! I repeat: Do your research! Some companies are offering positions for people like you and you might not even know it. A company, such as Liberty Mutual has a stigma of being only for finance and insurance majors, however there are positions open that allow one to market for the company or to manage (I will mention this more later). Also, it essential that your resume stands out to employers. What will make you stand out to the employer representatives is that you know what position you are interested in and can tell them why you’re interested in the position. They receive so many resumes from your peers, that making yourself stand out is essential!
  2. If you’ve been to the career fair before, its no secret that the jobs that many of the employers are looking offering are for engineers, computer scientists, and businessmen/businesswomen. You may be saying to yourself that you don’t fit that criteria, myself included. However, there are a lot of employers that list that they are looking for all majors. As I mentioned before, some companies have a reputation for offering one type of job, however they are looking for other majors for their company. This brings me to my third piece of advice…
  3. What you choose to do for after graduation does not dictate what you will do for the rest of your career! This is a big piece of advice that sometimes I don’t even think about. I eventually want to attend medical school and if I do a job in a different industry that interests me, that will only strengthen my resume more to make me a well rounded individual.

I hope that you find my advice helpful! I also hope to see you at the career fair. Remember to wear your nice suits and ties!

Angela Vallillo is senior biology major on the pre-medical track. Follow her NU admissions blog to read more from Angela.

Last Call: Senior Career Conference Today!

SCC_logoThinking back to my last semester of my senior year of college, I was actively avoiding what graduation meant for me and kept myself blissfully unaware of what I should be doing/needed to do to prepare for life after graduation.  I didn’t graduate THAT long ago (to give you a time frame, Facebook had been invented by the time I got to college) so I can relate to what many graduating students are feeling. One of my biggest regrets was not taking advantage of the people at my university who had tried to prepare me for the future, and not taking advantage of the opportunities to help me figure out what I wanted to do.  If I had done so, I believe my transition from student to new professional would have been a lot easier than it was. I eventually made it, and I was fine, but I could have saved myself a lot of turmoil if I had started earlier rather than later.

The Senior Career Conference, today in Stearns from 12-6PM is here to do JUST that—give you everything you need to prepare yourself for the job search and beyond. The workshops range from Salary Negotiation to Managing Stress on the Job Search and you get to meet with a lot of cool employers at the event—Liberty Mutual, TJX, Philips, Procter & Gamble and City Year are just a few of the employers who will be there to critique resumes, serve on panels, and co-teach workshops with our Career Development Staff.  An added incentive for dropping by is that we have some really cool prizes. Microsoft and TJX have donated special prizes that you can win by submitting your resume, and other prizes will be given to the first 100 students just for showing up.  There is no registration required and everyone is welcome, so stop by to attend a workshop, get your LinkedIn picture taken, or to get your resume critiqued—anything you do at the conference will help you on your way to becoming a new professional and being prepared to the transition.

 

Ashley LoBue is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. A Boston College graduate, Ashley has over 3 years of experience working in higher education and is a proponent for international and experiential education.

 

How to Prepare For Your Last Semester In College

source: gifbay.com

source: gifbay.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

So it’s your last year of college. Nervous about being unemployed yet? Yeah, being unemployed in college means more time for fun stuff, but it’s not so cute a year after you graduate. Starting your job search early in your last year of school will put you a step ahead when graduation rolls around.

Make a company list. Make a list of your top 5 to 10 target companies. This allows you to focus your networking efforts on a specific crop of companies. First, check on their website for any openings. Then it’s time to start the leg work.

Check LinkedIn for people in your network who work at your target companies. If you have a contact there, go grab coffee and talk about the company. They can be a valuable resource for you, providing tips for your application and contact information of someone in the department you are looking at. If you talk to your contacts early in your last year, they will let you know if a position opens up in a few months.

Go to Career Development. Their job is to help you find a job. Take advantage of that service while it’s free and available to you. Stop by with an idea of what you want to do. College career advisors have network contacts in almost every industry, so don’t be afraid to come in just for a chat. Your advisor may have contacts in your companies of choice, so make sure you let your advisor know about your job interests.

Talk it up. If your professors don’t know your career goals, they can’t help you even if they want to. Be sure to talk to your professors, especially if you are in a small class or you have lots of contact with a professor. Find an excuse to stop by their office hours, and mention your job search. Professors are usually professionals in their field, so they have an extensive network of upper-level management and may be able to help you out.

Conferences & networking events. Networking events are an incredible resource for soon-to-be grads. Instead of strolling in with your resume and mindlessly walking around the tables in hopes of finding something interesting, check the attending companies ahead of time if they are posted. This will allow you to prepare for networking with specific companies. At Northeastern, the Senior Career Conference provides an opportunity for graduating seniors to meet with potential employers and create connections. The Senior Career Conference is being held tomorrow from 12-6PM and includes workshops, panels, and networking opportunities.

On average, it takes a college grad between 3 and 9 months to land a job. The best time to start is November of your senior year or earlier. This gives you plenty of time, and allows you to avoid the May unemployment freak-out.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here.

 

Reasons to come hang out with me at Senior Career Conference

SCC_logoThis guest post was written by our new student blogger, Emily Brown, a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program.

My name is Emily and I’m excited to join The Works blogging team this semester! I’m a graduate student here at Northeastern and an intern in the career development office. Prior to coming to NU, I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at College of the Holy Cross and went on to work for two years at a construction management firm. Although I did have prior working experience, I certainly could have been more prepared for some aspects of the professional environment awaiting me in that first post-grad job (refilling copy paper wasn’t in my job description!).

source: someecards.com

source: someecards.com

The Senior Career Conference on January 23rd will offer you the opportunity to be more prepared than I was to start that first full-time job and will provide tips and tricks for getting through the job search process to that first day of “real life.” In choose-your-own-adventure style, there will be three workshops each hour of the conference so you can decide which ones (or just one – you don’t have to commit to staying for the whole conference) will best fit your needs. The conference is also a great opportunity to network with employers and alumni in both mix and mingle sessions and panels. As an introvert who has shunned the idea of networking until recently, I highly recommend remaining open to the idea (the LinkedIn for Networking workshop provides a great explanation of the benefits of networking and some strategies to make it less intimidating) and taking advantage of meeting these professionals who WANT to meet you. They wouldn’t be coming if they didn’t.

So mark your calendar for January 23rd and join us at the Senior Career Conference to start building your network and gaining tools to succeed professionally. I hope to see you there!

Emily Brown is a Career Counseling Intern in Career Development and is currently a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern. She hopes to continue working in the career counseling field once she graduates in May 2014.

Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?

Whether you’re job searching or generally trying to learn more about different careers, I usually suggest talking to individuals who already work in your fields of interest (aka networking). It’s a great way to learn more about typical career paths, get insight on which skills and qualifications are the most important, and figure out if a particular career path or industry is a good fit for you.  The process should include talking to people you already know, but should also include introducing yourself to and developing relationships with new people.  Once the look of horror on their face goes away, the most common question that students/alumni ask me is “Why would complete strangers be willing to talk to me?”

Image from www.cod.edu

Here are some reasons why professionals in your fields of interest would be willing to talk to you:

  • Networking is a pay-it-forward situation. Chances are, anyone that you contact for advice has had someone help him or him in a related fashion, and this is their chance to return the favor to the larger professional community.
  • When people like what they do, they often like discussing it with people who share their interest. And not just the same old people they talk to every day at work. It can be interesting to get a different perspective on things.
  • Networking is a lifelong career process, and it’s just as important for an experienced professional to continue building their professional community as it is for a college student or recent grad. One day, you may be able to give them some useful information on a particular company or contact. Maybe their son or daughter is considering Northeastern, and you can give your opinion on what it’s like to be a student here. It also gives that professional a chance to promote their organization and create a pipeline of talent for future positions.
  • People are genuinely helpful. If you are polite and genuinely interested in hearing what the person has to say (and not aggressively trying to push someone into hiring you), people are more often willing to help than you might expect.  You just have to ask. Career Services hosts workshops, panels and networking events all the time, and I am often amazed at how many people are willing to help out and talk to students/alumni about their experiences. And I don’t only mean Northeastern alumni and employer partners.  Professionals who are completely unrelated to Northeastern, that I have no personal connection with and sometimes have never even heard of before, have agreed to come to events, just because I asked.
  • Some people just like to talk about themselves!

As wonderful as the internet is, and as much career and job information you can find online, there are some things that you can only learn by speaking to someone who actually does the job.  Be thoughtful and deliberate when identifying people you’d like to talk to, clear and polite when you contact them, and appreciative of any and all advice they give you, and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised by people’s responsiveness. You have much to gain and little to lose by asking.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of Northeastern Career Development, and has worked at Northeastern for 11 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.