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.
Starting a Conversation
To begin, ask a question about the person or the general situation. If you're trying to engage in an already-happening conversation, ask, "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 key word, find a way to bring that topic back into 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.
Know Yourself & Your Goal
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, or develop job/internship leads.
Ending a Conversation
To exit gracefully, say, "Thank you for your insights/thoughts/direction. I need to move on to another conversation." Then offer to 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.
Find more tips in this helpful guide: Making and Using Your Network.
LinkedIn, a powerful networking tool, 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 2013 Social Times article on virtual recruiting, over 94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find and vet candidates for open positions.
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. Check out the Whitman College University Page to browse the profiles of Whitman alumni/students and join the Whitman College Discussion Groups to connect with other Whitties.
Whitman Connect Alumni Database
Whitman Connect is Whitman's proprietary database of more than 17,000 alumni searchable by location, job title, occupation, major, Greek affiliation, campus groups, and more. Through Whitman Connect, students can research and email alumni who have consented to being contacted. To access the database, students must first read and agree to the Whitman Connect Code of Conduct.