Photos by Katy Laliotis '21

Introduction

Effective networking is all about building trust, sharing information, and creating a positive foundation for future interactions. Networking can happen anywhere and is often most constructive when you least expect it - meeting the parents of a friend, making a new acquaintance at a wedding, talking to a seatmate while carpooling or flying, etc.  These are all opportunities to grow your network of professional relationships. Below, we've included information and tools to help you connect with alumni and make the most of in-person interactions.

Getting Started

Making the decision to start building your web of professional relationships is the first step. Below is a list of things to keep in mind when you have the opportunity to connect in-person with alumni and other professional connections--friends of your family and family of your friends are both good places to start. Find more helpful tips in this guide: Making and Using your Network             

Begin by asking a question about the person or the general situation. If you're at an event you can engage in an already-happening converstaion, by simply asking, "May I join you?" 

Pay attention to people as they talk about their life, work, volunteer activities, and current events. Often you can pick up clues about what they value and enjoy. If you notice a keyword, find a way to bring that topic back into the conversation when it’s your turn. Remain authentic by keeping your focus on listening rather than thinking through what you’ll say next. It’s good to have a few “go to” questions on-hand should you experience a lull in the conversation.

Refrain from only talking about yourself; ask "why" or "how" questions (instead of yes-or-no questions) and engage actively with the answers. 

Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Vague questions will not work as well as specific ones, e.g. how to break into a particular company, find professional contacts in their industry, or what skills to develop for a job or internship.

To exit gracefully, you can thank them for their time and insights, shake hands and ask for a business card. If they don't have a card, ask if you can contact them on LinkedIn or have them write down their name and email.

A pile of business cards and a list of contact names do not do you or your job search much good without active follow-up. Call, send an email or connect on LinkedIn after meeting someone new. In your message, remind your new contact where and how you met them and part of what you discussed.

Resources

As a student at Whitman, you have access to two powerful resources to help you research and connect with Whitman graduates working across the professional spectrum. Before you reach out, make sure that you have developed a strategy that includes: the purpose for your request, questions you’d like answers to, a solid introductory email (like the one we found here), a list of people you’re interested in learning about.

Whitman Connect is Whitman's proprietary database of alumni searchable by location, industry, occupation, major, campus groups & activities, and more. Through Whitman Connect, students can research and contact alumni who have volunteered to support students’ professional exploration and preparation in a variety of ways. Please note that this tool is a private environment for professional conversations between students and alumni. A positive, professional demeanor and responsible conduct is expected. Please do not allow others to access this resource with your login credentials or use the platform for soliciting anything beyond career mentorship or advice.

LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool that allows you to establish a professional internet presence (for free), message and keep track of your connections, research organizations, browse job/internship postings, keep current on industry news, and explore career paths by seeing other people's trajectories. According to a 2020 article about LinkedIn on the blog site Kinsta, over 90% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find and vet candidates for open positions.

Check out the Whitman College University Page, browse the profiles of Whitman alumni using their powerful filtering tools and join the Whitman College Community Discussion Group to connect with other Whitties.Visit the SEC blog for posts about starting and updating your LinkedIn profile.  LinkedIn also provides Student Resources, a series of documents and videos with additional information.

Activities

Seek out opportunities to meet alumni and build new relationships through college sponsored programs like Whitties Helping Whitties. These networking events and job shadowing opportunities will allow you to connect with alumni in a variety of professional fields - they are a great way to extend the initial contacts you make on Whitman Connect to continue the dialog or move your conversation into a workplace setting. For more information, look to the Whitties Helping Whitties website for online content and a list of activities.