According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Based on this, it goes without saying that networking is the most effective job search method and should play a pivotal role in all job searches.
While attending the University of Texas at Arlington, you have the opportunity to make connections with fellow students, advisors and faculty and staff members—in other words; you are building your network!
Knowing how to make a positive impression and build relationships will be key in finding the opportunities you seek!
- Starts by making a list of people you know: family, friends, family friends, coworkers, professors, members of student organizations, etc. Ask them for suggestions for other people you can speak with regarding your job search.
- Attend networking events, including job fairs, information sessions, conferences, organization meetings, and alumni association meetings.
- Keep track of your contacts and stay in touch with them. Let them know how you are doing, express gratitude for their assistance and reciprocate by providing information that may be of interest to them in their professional development or job search.
- Always present yourself professionally and learn how to introduce yourself. Perfect your “30-Second Commercial”.
Networking opportunities include:
Job Fairs and Events
Every semester the Career Development Center coordinates numerous fairs and events to assist students in locating employment opportunities and exploring potential career paths, networking and identifying career opportunities. These fairs and events also support employers in their recruitment efforts. Job Fairs are held each Spring and Fall. View our calendar of events for information about other career events, presentations, workshops, etc.
Every Fall and Spring semester, employers schedule Information Sessions, where they present information on their company, the opportunities that are available and what they are looking for in an employee. These sessions are generally held in the evening and provide a less-formal venue for networking. You can find out about information session on our calendar of events on this website.
Informational interviews are a great way to connect with individuals in your field of interest. Once you have identified a contact at a company that interests you, politely approach them and ask them if they would be willing to provide you with some insight. For example, you can ask them how they got their job, what skills or what type of experience would a candidate need to succeed in this position or what is the best way to get started in this field.
Why Schedule Informational Meetings
- To learn firsthand about what it is like to do a particular kind of work in a particular organization.
- To get information about what the opportunities are in a given field or organization.
- To develop contacts in key positions with people who hire or who make recommendations to those who do.
- To find out about jobs and career paths you did not know existed.
- To begin to build, or expand, your network of professional contacts.
Who to Contact
Friends, friends of friends, relatives, co-workers of yours or your friends; members of professional associations related to your field; people gleaned from directories of companies, associations, outstanding individuals and alumni; people who are doing work that interests you, who are with an organization that you would like to know more about, who might know someone in any of these other categories; people you admire or respect; people mentioned in the newspaper, magazines or other media; people who would know other leaders in a field, organization or community.
How to Approach Your Contacts
You are in the process of making some decisions about your career, and you want to learn more about the opportunities in a given field for someone with your skills and experience. There is a lot at stake in terms of your future so you want the best information you can get. That is why you would like to meet with this person.
Be prepared for a response such as “I think our Personnel Director can probably be of more help”. A possible response on your part might be “I’m sure that would be true if I were just looking for a job. I’d like to talk with you because from what ________________ said about you, I could respect your advice, and I would like to get your personal perspective.”
Your basic question will probably be a variation of “Here is what I can do. Where do you feel the best opportunities are for someone with my skills and experience?” Additional questions to help you get the information you need are suggested below.
How to Prepare For a Meeting
Prior to setting up informational meetings, it is essential that you do some preliminary research on the companies, jobs, professions, or industries that interest you. A wide variety of resources are available online, at the Career Development Center, and through UTA Libraries. The information you obtain from your research will form the basis for the questions you ask during the meeting, and your meeting contact will be invaluable for supplementing your research with a “real world” perspective.
How to Handle the Meeting
- You are not asking for a job. You are gathering information on which to base some decisions.
- Always make an appointment; this puts the meeting on a business-like basis and helps eliminate interruptions.
- Dress appropriately, arrive on time, and be polite and professional.
- Do not bring your résumé to the meeting unless your contact has agreed in advance to give you feedback on how you are presenting yourself. A résumé can make an informational meeting suddenly feel like a job interview.
- Be prepared to take the lead in the conversation – remember, you are seeking information. Know what you want to ask. Don’t ask questions just to show off, or you may end up showing your ignorance. The person you are meeting with will feel it was worthwhile if you ask thoughtful questions, but not if you ask only superficial ones. Having notes with you is fine and can be very helpful.
- Respect the person’s time, but don’t put yourself down by being subservient or apologetic.
- Towards closure, always ask with whom else you should talk. This is the key to developing more contacts and building your network.
- Keep your eyes open for clues about what kinds of problems or challenges the organization/industry/career field might have, and how you might present yourself as the solution.
- Always write a thank you note that will help you be remembered. Mention what you talked about, what you learned, or who you are going to see at his/her suggestion. If you are interested in pursuing a job with that person, try to keep the door open to get back in touch.
Suggested Questions to Ask
- In the position you now hold, what do you do on a typical day?
- What are the most interesting/challenging/frustrating aspects of your job?
- What part of your work do you consider dull or repetitious, and what percentage of your time do you devote to those activities?
- What were the jobs you had that led you to this one?
- How long does it usually take to move from one step to the next in this career path?
- What is the step above the one you have now?
- Given your present position and experience, what position do you see yourself in five years from now?
- What is the top job you can have in this career?
- Are there other areas of this field to which people in it may be transferred?
- What are the prerequisites for jobs in this field?
- What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?
- Are there any specific courses I might take that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
- What types of training do companies give to persons entering this field?
- What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
- What aspects of a career in this field do you consider particularly good? Particularly bad?
- What special advice could you give a young person/career changer entering this field?
- Is there a demand for people in this field?
- What are the growth prospects for this field in the future?
- With the information you have about my education, skills, and experience, what other fields or jobs would you suggest I research further before I make a final decision?
- How do you see the jobs in this field changing over the next two years? What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
- What is the best way to obtain a position that will start me on a career in this field?
- Do you have information on job specifications and descriptions that I may have?
- If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?
- Who do you know that I should talk with next? When I call him/her, may I use your name?
Using Information Interviews and Shadowing to Find your Career
Having a hard time deciding on a specific career goal? Do you have several options in mind but feel like you need more information before making a final decision? Try an information interview or job shadowing experience to see what it’s like to work in a specific type of job, industry, or work environment.
The best way to explore a potential career choice is by speaking with and/or following someone who works in that career. Do an information interview. Learn first-hand about your chosen profession by asking questions about tasks, business environment, and educational background. Shadow a professional. Follow someone in your career choice as they go through a typical day or week on the job. Ask questions and observe the work.
Finding a Profession(al)
Finding someone to interview or shadow is not difficult. Ask your parents and your friends’ parents if they know someone you can interview. Ask your professors for recommendations of professionals in the field. Go to the Career Development Center: Many maintain lists of alumni and employers who are willing to help in your career exploration.
Next, call or write a letter requesting an information interview or job shadowing. People who like their jobs tend to enjoy talking about them. You compliment the professional by expressing an interest in the career. In your phone call or letter, explain how you found the person you want to interview and request time for an appointment. Emphasize that you want to find out more about the career—you’re not looking for a job. If you’re lucky, the professional you contact may have other colleagues you can interview also.
Takes notes during your time with the professional. Here are some questions you might ask:
- What is your typical workday like?
- What do you like most (and least) about your job?
- What skills/abilities are most important to succeed in this job?
- What is your educational background?
- How did you get started in this field?
- What courses were most helpful to you and which would you recommend?
- What is the best way to get started in this field?
- Do you have any additional advice to help me prepare?
Following Up Your Interview
Review your notes. What was your impression? Did you leave the interview feeling as if you can envision a future in this occupation or were you discouraged—you don’t feel you learned enough about the occupation or the job description doesn’t sound appealing any longer?
Take your thoughts and concerns to the Career Development Center staff and get feedback on the next step to take in your career exploration. You may want to do additional information interviews in this career path or you may want to reexamine your goals and find a different path for your interests.
No matter what you decide, send a thank-you note to anyone you interview or shadow. Whether you decide to forge ahead on that career path or find another one, this professional may be a good person to network with when you begin your job search.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder. www.naceweb.org.
Wisely using your Social Media presence to network can create connections and broaden your network. For tips on how to create a strong social media presence and using it in your job search, see Social Media and You.