Alexandra Tambellini is a Career Counselor at Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College where she advises students pursuing a Master of Information Systems Management degree. She shares three major mistakes that students make when networking for a job/internship search:
1. Asking for Too Much Too Quickly
The top mistake I see in networking is that job seekers often ask for too much from a new network contact too quickly, which subsequently hinders the development of the networking relationship. The number one thing to remember when networking is to ensure that you restrain “the ask” you make of a contact at a level where your contact is likely to acquiesce to your request. A very new contact is unlikely to recommend a job seeker for a job when asked. They may feel uncomfortable recommending someone they don’t know, feel like they may be putting their own professional reputation at risk, and may get the sense that they are simply being used for their professional position.
Instead, a more appropriate “ask” of a new contact might first be for an informational interview, or conversation, to learn more about this person and their professional insights. It is important to put the work into learning about your contact, gaining insight through their feedback, showing where you can add value, and building rapport with them. By putting this effort into networking, you can build a more meaningful connection, learn from your contact, broaden your network, and then the job/internship referral “ask” will be appropriate and feel more natural in the network relationship.
2. Not Following Up With The People You Meet
Another mistake I see frequently in networking is a failure to follow-up after meeting someone new and then the subsequent loss of that potential contact. Networking opportunities exist everywhere! Sometimes you may be introduced to someone in passing, hear a guest speaker in a lecture, or bump into someone in a hallway. In this instance, you will hear a name but often job seekers forgot to follow-up via LinkedIn or email until too many days and weeks have passed. After time passes, it may be hard to remember the person, they are unlikely to remember you, and you may feel a bit awkward reaching out after such time.
I recommend to students that they follow-up with contacts that they meet within about 48 hours via personalized LinkedIn connection request or email if they have received an address. This way, you are able to stay on a new contact’s radar and develop a more meaningful network connection with them in the future.
3. Limiting Our Own Perspective on the Purpose of Networking
Most importantly, the mistake that students make when networking is that they forget that there are reasons to network beyond purely job/internship attainment. Of course, this is at the forefront of any job seeker’s mind! However, by limiting the scope to just this purpose, you may also handicap yourself in your networking ability. If mentally you are focusing only on “what can this person do for me?” then you are probably missing important opportunities for learning from someone new about a company, industry, important skillset, etc.
I recommend to students that they start networking long before a job/internship search so that the pressure to get the job/internship is not weighing as heavily on their mind as it will be closer to a deadline. Even if a job/internship deadline is looming, I encourage students to try to reframe networking with priority on building meaningful connections with trust that the rest will follow.