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How do I network?

I know that when I go to college it is going to be important to be active in my major (activities/clubs/organizations) but how exactly do I go about reaching out to people that might be able to help me advance my career? What do I say? For example, I want to be an aerospace engineer... where do I even start networking? career-path business career networking career-choice aerospace reachingout active career-options career-path entrylevel

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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Marco!

I think there's two components for networking success: 1) a really compelling, brief (like 30 seconds or less) "about me" and 2) learning to ask good questions. People like to talk about themselves. As a new networker, use this to your advantage: be brief when discussing yourself, and ask questions to get the other person to open up. In my experience, the more you let people talk about themselves, the more they like you!

If you are reaching out to someone you don't know--say, an upper classman you heard about but haven't met--via email or LinkedIn, the same ideas hold true. For example, a good networking email might be something like:

Hello [upper classman]:

I'm a freshman at [University] interested in majoring in aerospace engineering because [brief statement about why this is your passion.] I got your name from [mutual contact name]. I was hoping we could discuss [your favorite classes, your summer internship, your experience job search in the field] so I can learn more about my future field. Would you be open to setting up a 30 minute meeting or call sometime in the next few weeks?

Thank you!

Marco

That's all it takes! Some people may not reply--don't take it personally. Those that do are the sort of people you want in your network (use your initial conversation as a starting place to keep in touch). Make the conversation about them and their experience, balanced with your experience when you have things in common. It'll take some practice to get good at this. Have patience with yourself and enjoy the process.
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Marco,

I would say that when it comes to networking, you just need to start networking. That means actually going to meetings around the clubs and other activities that you have mentioned. There is no right way to network except by meeting new people. You never know who is going to be able to help your career. While you already know that you want to enter a very specialized field, it is not only people in that field who will be able to help you. For example, when you are in college, there may be a course or subject that gives you problems. Let's say English or History. It would be great if you already knew someone who was really good in the subject where you are not strong. Getting their support will help you get a better grade with less stress and ensure that you graduate from school. So networking for a specific job is a limiting way to think about it. You should meet different kinds of people with skills different from you. You just never know who is going to get you to where you want to go in life. You may meet someone who knows someone that is in your career field. You may meet someone who has a skill that you would like to learn, like public speaking, that will support specific kinds of roles that you may dream about. When you saw aerospace engineer, I think the head of NASA.

There are a few keys to networking. Stay in touch with people you meet that you like and admire. Make sure that you make connections with them on a variety of levels, not just the work. People refer people that they feel they know and like. Connect in a formal way. One way is a tool like LinkedIn to keep it business or another social media platform that reflects your shared interests. For example, I keep Facebook personal, no business interactions. However, Twitter and LinkedIn feel more business or serious, rather than personal. You should also be selective about your network. You don't need to connect with every single person you meet. A network is a group of acquaintances that you want to stay in touch with. Keeping the group manageable allows you to stay better connected. Now I have a friend whose network is very large, several hundred people. She loves the interaction with a wide variety of people and network is global. I am too introverted to maintain that kind of network. Just try a variety of tactics until you find something that works for you.

Gloria

I really appreciate it! Such a good answer! Marco F.

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Catherine’s Answer

Hi Marco!

This is a great question, and something I also initially struggled with in college! Based on the college that you attend, there will be a plethora of networking opportunities afforded to you by the clubs pertaining to your major. For example, since you're interested in Aerospace Engineering, you could join the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics at your college! Most likely, this club will host speakers from the field, and you'll be able to speak with them 1-on-1 after their talks in order to network. Make sure you have a plan when you go talk to them though, and always remember to get their contact information whether that be phone number, email, or LinkedIn connection! Also, you can network with your Aerospace Engineering professors who will not only be well connected within academia, but also within the wider field as well. This networking can be done in the form of attending professors' office hours, being a teaching assistant for a professor/class that you enjoyed, or even doing research with them!

In addition, during your time in college, you'll most likely take on an internship or co-op (or multiple even!). While you're interning/co-oping, you'll be exposed to professionals in your field, and you'll have the opportunity to reach out and setup 1-on-1s to chat with them. Don't be afraid to cold email someone, even those in positions like Vice President or Director! Most people will be happy to talk to you about their career journey! It is especially important to look for mentors during those internships/co-ops even if you're assigned one (the more the merrier, as long as you can dedicate time to them). These mentors can continue to support you even after you finish your internship, and some may even become mentors for life.

Lastly, there's something that you can start doing even now! LinkedIn (the professional social networking site) is a wonderful place to message others in your field. People are often happy to talk to you about their career journey and help you get to where you want to be! On LinkedIn, you can search for people within the Aerospace Engineering field, at companies you might want to intern/work at, as well as reach out to those in positions you might want to hold later in life!

Good luck with your career journey, and I think it's amazing that you want to pursue Aerospace Engineering!

- Cathy

Wow, thank you so much! I really wasn't expecting such an in depth answer! I will be sure to keep this in mind. Thank you for the awesome advice :) Marco F.

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Lauren’s Answer

This is a great question and one that people can overlook during their college careers. College will provide you with a wealth of opportunities to network and you might not even realize you are actually "networking". Networking is essentially just putting yourself out there to have conversations with other people who are either in a career field you are interested or not. I think in networking it's important to not only learn what you think you will like to do as a career, but also what you dislike. I didn't think I would like working in finance until I networked with coworkers at my job and understood it isn't just about crunching numbers anymore. Finance also requires an investigative and analytical mindset which was right up my alley.

I would suggest when you start college to attend the initial college fair if they do have one. Typically colleges will host fairs at the beginning of the school year to draw interest from new students to clubs, sport teams, etc and a way to begin networking is to simply show up and start a discussion with someone.

With the world becoming a very virtual environment, I suggest also creating a LinkedIn profile as soon as possible which will be your professional media profile. To use your example of an aerospace engineer, once you have a LinkedIn profile, start searching for people with job titles similar to "aerospace engineer". Once you find someone go ahead and send them a direct message explaining that you are heading to college soon and have interest in a career as an aerospace engineer and are looking for some guidance on how the person got started in that career field.

You will find that more often than not people are willing to take some time out of their day to provide advice/guidance to someone with interest in their career field. Best of luck!! I hope this helps. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there, you never know when you are going to make a connection that will set you up for a bright future.
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Catherine’s Answer

If you rephrase your perspective from "how do I network" to "where can I network", this might help you get in the mindset to comfortably build your network more naturally! Some of the strongest connections I made were through activities outside of traditional network settings, such as the clubs and activities you've already identified. While the traditional networking settings like speed networking and career fairs are valuable, do not discount your connections based on common interests and personality. Every connection you make will open you up to their own network of people, so building those key relationships early will help when you're ready to seek their help or advice in finding those career opportunities.

If you are looking for some aerospace engineering career advice, talk with a professor/advisor that you're comfortable with and see if they can help or link you with an upperclassmen with similar career goals. In a few years time, your network within college will become your network within the industry so be open to any and all connections no matter where they originate from!
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Ayser’s Answer

I find LinkedIn especially helpful but it takes awhile to get things moving.
Make connections out of usual circle of friends and acquaintances. People rarely ignore a connection request.
I found people helped me later.
I also send many congratulations and birthday notes. It shows you care beyond needing employment advice.
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Dave’s Answer

Hi Marco - Networking is a super important lifelong skill and even 20 years into my career it is still something that I put a huge emphasis on. It is always important to build and nurture human relationships and make sure that people know who you are and what you can do. It can really help you get your foot in the door to a number of opportunities. But it's important to be strategic about it - and really think about what kind of people that you want to meet and what opportunities they may provide you. It's important to think long term as well - who do you need to build relationships with that may take time to develop strong trusting relationships with. The measure of a good relationship is how comfortable you would be to pick up the phone to ask for advice/a recommendation etc.
Hope that helps!
All the best

Dave
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Simeon’s Answer

The key to good networking is to actually try and befriend people. Try to find people you have chemistry and share interests with. If both of you enjoy the conversation, it is more likely to become a relationship that you can keep going on and off in the long term. You don't have to hang out with people you network with as if they were long-term friends. The idea is to find people whom you will remember (networking is a two way street) and people who will remember you positively. If you've been to a networking event before, try to think back and see how many people you can remember. Can you remember any of their names? Could you find any of them on social media like Linkedin if you really wanted to find them? Cold-calling people won't really produce results. You're shooting for a personal connection; imagine that you're selling yourself to them as a future coworker. Sure, they would need to know your ability to do a job well, but they are much more likely to recommend you to their future bosses if they like you as a person and hope you get hired at their company. Also, as a final note, socializing in general is excellent networking and can open up doors that aren't possible by going to industry related events.
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Jesse’s Answer

Networking is critical in any industry. LinkedIN is a great start. Establish a good profile and search for groups in your career path. You can connect with a mentor and grow your industry knowledge.
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Anqi (Anki)’s Answer

Hi,

When I was in college and tried to social network, I firstly talked to my professors, and asked some questions like insights to the industry and business environment. I also asked whether he/she knows someone from upper classes or who had already graduated were workin in the industry/companies you were interested in. Then, you could ask a referral.

I think LinkedIn is definitely a good resource, too. Just search the business title and the company names you are interested in, and send them a brief message about yourself. Most of the people are very willing to help!

And, don't be afraid to be rejected!

Hope above small tips are useful! Thanks!
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Todd’s Answer

Leverage your counselor to give ideas with professional organization that have student memberships. Second take a look at networking sites like linked to find professional in this space that you can reach out and develop relationships with. Find associate professors that are working in the field and teaching. Lastly don't forget the power of google in finding local groups that you can connect with in this space! Good luck!
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Gina’s Answer

Hello-- The answer may not be in the "how", but in the WHERE. I know it's hard right now to go to actual events. But when things open back up, fining events, clubs, organizations in your area re the best way to meet and talk with new people. Sometimes it's not just limited to people in your area of interest-- I'm in sales and have attended some events that I didn't expect to meet anyone as a potential customers. But after engaging in small talk, you'd be surprised how the degrees of separation come together. But in the meantime until things loosen up, you may want to search LinkedIn, or other professional sites. Join groups on there and there are also a lot of Zoom calls/conferences businesses are hosting. Good luck!
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Jolanta’s Answer

Networking is about putting yourself out there and sharing your passion with the people you encounter. By being open about your interests and goals, and sharing that with others, networking can occur in a formal or informal setting, such as with a professor or a friend at a party who can connect you with someone down the line. Don't be afraid to speak up. One recommendation for successful networking is to also listen to others and understand their backgrounds too.
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