Networking Etiquette

Using the Online Alumni Directory or Other Sources

Whether you’re contacting a family friend for a networking meeting or requesting an informational interview with a Northeastern alumnus/a, you’ve never met, it is critical to observe the appropriate etiquette.

Email Etiquette

Once you’ve identified a professional you’d like to meet through the Online Directory or another source, write a clear, succinct letter or email to request a meeting following these tips:

  •   Keep your messages short
  •   Use a typeface and formatting that is easy to read (use at least a 12pt font)
  •   Make the subject line descriptive so the recipient will know why you are writing (example, “Referred by [Name] to discuss [Topic]” or “Fellow Alum From [College] Who Enjoys [Industry]”
  •   Save the high priority/urgent option for real emergencies
  •   Do not use cute abbreviations or faces drawn with punctuation (examples:   🙂 or 🙁
  •   Do not write all in capitals - it is the email equivalent of SHOUTING
  •   Do not attach your resume to a request letter; you can share it later
  •   Specify the amount of time you are requesting, should be no more than 30 minutes
  •   Re-read the email before sending; check the tone and ensure that it is error-free

The Meeting

Show respect for your contact’s time by being prompt and prepared and by sticking with the allotted time (usually about 20 minutes) you agreed on. Prepare yourself by researching the organization to impress your contact as well as to avoid wasting time asking the obvious. Write out a list of well thought-out questions and refer to them during your meeting. It is fine to take notes, and useful to obtain a business card. Thank the contact at the end of your discussion and leave promptly.

Follow Up

Write a personalized thank you note, referring to specific advice or information you particularly appreciated and send it promptly. This can be by email or on notepaper or a note card. It is appropriate to update contacts about your progress from time to time, and even to ask further advice. Don’t forget to notify all of your contacts when you accept a new job, and thank them again for their help.

Experts Offer Their Tips for Fruitful Networking

By Stacey L Bradford
From The Wall Street Journal Online

When it comes to finding a job, nothing beats networking – contacting friends, relatives, and former colleagues, setting up meetings in the hope of getting job referrals.  Yes, it is awkward, but here’s why it simply has to be done: At any given time, about 80% of all available jobs aren’t posted externally, says BH Careers International, a New York career-management firm.  And 60% of people surveyed by BH said they got their last job by networking.

Here are 10 tips from experts to make your networking fruitful:

1.  Prepare an “elevator speech.”  Write a summary of what you want people to know about you that can be delivered in less than 30 seconds.  Make it upbeat and succinct: who you are, what you do, what you’re looking for.  More than that, and you risk turning off the listener, says Debra Condren, a career coach and business psychologist with offices in New York and San Francisco.  Since you get only one chance to make a first impression, she recommends practicing your elevator speech in front of a mirror, and then on friends before taking it to a networking event.

2.  Use your existing ties.  Start by tapping existing contacts, including friends, family and ex-colleagues.  Spread the word that you’re looking for a job and ask if anyone has a contact who might be able to offer advice.  Then make sure to ask every person you meet for two or three more referrals.  (“Do you know anyone else who might be helpful to meet?” can be an effective question).

3.  Target trade groups.  Don’t waste time at big events catering to people in many industries.  Join the dominant trade or industry group in your area.  Consider volunteering on one of the group’s committees, to meet members.

4.  Show interest in others.  Career experts say the secret is to stop focusing on yourself and take an interest in the other person.  Ask questions and get the contacts to talk about themselves and their business experience.  This is easier than you might think.

5.  Don’t ask for a job.  It may force the other person to say no to you.  Instead, seek advice, says Dan Strakal, co-author of “Better Job Search in 3 Easy Steps” and owner of Success Positioning Systems, an Albuquerque, NM, career services firm.  People are likelier to be generous with their time if you ask for their counsel.  Don’t worry.  If you seem qualified for an opening, they’ll refer you to the right person to set up an interview.

6.  Build relationships.   Strangers won’t put their reputations on the line for you.  Build ties with a new contact before asking for help.  Consider dropping a personal note to any new contacts you meet at an industry event.  Then follow up, perhaps with a relevant article, or introduction to someone you know.

7.  Don’t be selfish.  No matter how desperate you are, remember networking is a two-way street.  If you’ve met with a recruiter, you can always offer to introduce him to the smartest people you know in the industry, says Melanie Mulhall, a career coach and corporate consultant in Broomfield, CO.  If you are a young job seeker with little experience, you may not be able to help a finance chief land his next position – but his daughter might be applying to colleges and want to hear your take on a school.

8.  Don’t abuse relationships.  There’s no rule here for how many phone calls are too many.  Just try to gauge if you’re coming across as looking for a favor.

9.  Follow through.  Nothing can kill a budding relationship faster than not writing a proper thank you note.  A three-line message with a smiley face won’t cut it.  Update the other person on your meeting with someone he or she referred you to.

10.  Maintain your network.  Cultivate ties even when you aren’t job hunting.  Remember, the majority of jobs go unpublished, so you may hear of an exciting opportunity.