Networking and Interviewing
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.
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 conversation, 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.
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 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 Career and Community Engagement Center blog for posts about starting and updating your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn also provides Student Resources, a series of documents and videos with additional information.
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.
More students are using LinkedIn, and you should too.
You've probably heard of LinkedIn, the "Facebook for professionals" with over 700 million users. We've assembled a list of reasons of why it's a great idea for students to start using LinkedIn while still attending college.
Connecting with professionals - At its core, LinkedIn provides professionals an opportunity to connect with each other. While students might say "follow me on Instagram", professionals will ask that you find and add them on LinkedIn. This way, when an executive looks at your social media presence, they don't see party pictures, but a polished profile with skills and work history.
Sharing ideas and discussion - Attending a college like Whitman is about exploring your passions, and LinkedIn has over a million groups dedicated to sharing thoughts about every topic you can think of. They provide an excellent opportunity to connect with professionals and enthusiasts who share your interests, which can broaden your network and future plans.
Social Recruiting Statistics from EveryoneSocial
- 79% of job applicants use social media in their job search
- Job seekers rank social media and professional networks as the most useful job search resource
- Recruiting via social media is growing with 84% of organization currently using it and 9% planning to use it
- 70% of hiring managers say they've successfully hired with social media
- 91% of employers are using social media to hire
Exploring your career options - There are so many different paths to take with your career, and LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to browse the paths of other professionals. To start, you can try using Whitman's University Page, just click the "Alumni" button, to browse the careers of thousands of alumni. Viewing a profile can give you valuable insight into the kinds of skills and experiences that are used in different occupations.
Networking - Linked in is a professional social network. If you have more questions about someone's profile, contact them with questions and/or ask for an informational interview. Exchange messages with folks who are in the same LinkedIn group. Many people love to share their experiences and advice with young professionals who want to learn about the important skills and experiences relevant to their career path.
Researching organizations - Over 55 million organizations have public profiles on LinkedIn, which gives you an opportunity to learn more about their company culture, connect with employees, and apply for job openings.
Increasing your visibility - LinkedIn is a huge network, and once you have registered and fully completed your profile, you have made yourself visible to professionals and organizations around the world. The overwhelming majority (84% and growing) of recruiters now use social media (and LinkedIn especially) to scout for potential employees. This trend is only increasing, with more hiring occurring in-network than on public job boards.
Student Resources - LinkedIn has a series of helpful documents and videos geared towards introducing students to LinkedIn.
What is the purpose of an interview?
An interview allows an employer to evaluate your professionalism, ability to express ideas, and fit with their organization. For you, an interview is an opportunity to weave the facts listed on your resume into a story while demonstrating strong communication and interpersonal skills. It's also a time to ask well-prepared questions (see below) and determine whether the organization is where you'd like to work.
How can I practice?
- You can schedule a practice interview with our staff via Handshake.
- When recruiters come to campus, consider signing up for interviews even if you're not sure if you're interested in the position.
- Take advantage of opportunities to speak in public, whether it's the Power & Privilege Symposium, the Whitman Undergraduate Conference or an optional presentation in class.
- The Center for Writing and Speaking (COWS) has speaking fellows trained to help students with their oral communication skills.
To get help in making the most of your interview, check out these tips.
Attire & Body Language
Even for a phone interview, dressing professionally can help direct your mindset. For a video interview, it's crucial. Sit upright with both feet on the floor and refrain from fidgeting.
Location & Technology
Choose a quiet location with good service/solid internet connection. For a phone call, use a fully charged cellular device or consider using a landline. For a video interview, plug in your computer and set up 15 minutes early in a well-lit area with an appropriate background.
Remote interviews run the risk of sounding flat. Smile, talk with your hands, and communicate enthusiasm through tone of voice. On the phone, there are no visual cues, so listen attentively to your interviewer's questions and responses and give yourself permission to pause before answering.