Question of the Week #5: What are some ways I can get in contact with people whose careers I’m interested in?

 

“What are some ways I can get in contact with people whose careers I’m interested in?”
- Chengcheng Gui ‘14

Great question Chengcheng! I think it’s great that you are already thinking about how to network and make connections with people of interest in the professional world. As a junior, you are making the right strides towards developing and building your professional contacts. Here are my quick tips on how you can find and make lasting connections with those in careers that are of interest to you.

  1. Ask people you know to refer you.  One of the best starting points for any networking endeavor is by asking people you know to connect you. Try asking family members, close friends, or coworkers if they know anyone in the field or profession that might be willing to talk to you. Getting personal referrals is always a benefit when making connections. Be specific about the kind of contacts you are looking for. You might be surprised to see how many people you are already connected to.
  2. Reach out to Princeton Alumni. Princeton alumni are always willing to help fellow tigers! The Princeton Alumni Careers Network is  a great way to find contacts in careers that are of interest to you. Through Tigernet, you can access the alumni directory and find potential connections. Use the “custom search” tool to search for employment information. Or, use the advanced search features in LinkedIn to identify Princeton alumni working at particular organizations
  3. Try setting up informational interviews at organizations in your field of interest. Most professionals love to talk about their career paths. If you don’t have a contact, look for one via searching by company name in the advanced search section of LinkedIn. Or, visit company websites or perhaps call companies directly to ask for the contact information of someone in the role or department you might be interested in. Explain that you are a college student who is looking to find out more about career paths in the field and that you would like to schedule an informational interview.  Be flexible, accommodating, and most of all, respectful of the individual’s time. Interviews can be held in person, on the phone, or via e-mail or Skype! Prepare a list of questions in advance. Don’t try to sell yourself or ask for a job during this meeting. Instead, focus on learning more about the individual and their field. Afterwards, be sure to send a thank you note and mention one or two specific pieces of advice you were given and how you will act upon those in the immediate future. One tip for making sure the relationship moves forward is to mention that you will be sure to keep in touch regarding your progress.
  4. Follow and Engage with professionals on social media. Social media is a great way to connect with people that you want to get to know. For example, you might want to follow industry leaders and professionals on Twitter and engage with them, too. You’ll be surprised by what happens. Let’s say they post a really great article. I recommend replying to his/her tweet with a personal response.  You might say “Thanks for sharing this. As someone who is really interested in this field it was good to learn something new!” Or, you might as a specific follow-up question such as “What did you think about _______(be specific if you can)?” is a great conversation starter.  Finally, why not mention this person in your own personal tweet. Once, on Twitter, I mentioned a particular company in a tweet and the CEO responded to me asking to know more about what I had learned about the company. I followed him and thanked him for his response. He ended up following me back! Other great sites to utilize are Facebook and Linkedin! Great networking contacts are available on social media so make sure you are utilizing it to your advantage. Check out this advice about using social media to make professional connections.
  5. Attend career fairs and employer presentations. Career fairs are great ways to connect with recruiters, hiring managers, and already-established professionals in different industries. When browsing booths, make sure to get the contact information from recruiters and make sure to reach out to them after the fair! Employer presentations and information sessions are also great ways to make connections. Not only do you get to learn more about an organization of interest, but you get to personally meet those who work there. Again, always do your homework in advance and come prepared with questions!
  6. Join professional organizations.  Most careers and industries have one, so make sure to do your research and try joining one today. Many of them offer mentoring programs, conferences, job boards, and other resources for their members. Plus, some even have special membership rates for students. For a list by industry, visit the “online resources” page.

Chengcheng, I hope this information was useful to you. There are so many ways that you can connect with individuals in careers that interest you. It’s all about keeping your options open, being creative, and doing the necessary legwork that is required to start building those relationships. For more advice, check out the Networking section in Career Services’ Career Planning Guide!