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Networking Techniques and Strategies

Why network?

Networking is an important part of the job search process because most jobs are discovered through personal communication rather than traditional postings. It may seem overwhelming to think about networking, especially when life is busy, but building your network does not necessarily mean you have to attend large social functions or continuously meet with potential employers.

In fact, many people do not even realize that they network on a daily basis. Are you in contact with professionals in your field of interest at your job, at your internship, or during social events on the weekends? Do you keep in touch with faculty, employers, or peers from your undergraduate or previous professional career? Most likely, yes. These contacts may be helpful as you enter the job market. It is important to be aware of your growing network and utilize this important resource.

Networking tips for busy people:

  • Identify networking opportunities in your daily life: intra-agency meetings, guest speaker presentations, training events and conferences, family, work, or school social events
  • Tell your contacts when you are in the job market: your own network may have connections to job openings that you may otherwise not have known about
  • Carry business cards with your professional contact information at all times.
  • Utilize social networking websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or inCircle, which may be useful to build and maintain connections with co-workers, classmates, and employers
  • Join professional organizations and associations relevant to your field for access to job search databases, employment bulletins, and professional contacts
  • Obtain a copy of the U-M School of Social Work Alumni Directory for MSW graduate information - this is especially helpful for out-of-state job searches, as the directory is divided by geographical location
  • Conduct informational interviews with contacts directly related to your field of interest

What is informational interviewing?

Informational interviewing is a form of interviewing that is initiated by the job-seeker. The desired result is not to obtain a job but rather to gather as much knowledge as possible about the market in which you are entering. Therefore the job-seeker will ask questions to find out more about a particular job, the necessary credentials or skills for such a position, and other information that will provide additional insight during the job search. Interviews are brief, lasting about 10 to 15 minutes.

Be sure to send a thank-you note immediately after the interview, as the employers/social workers you speak with are generously taking time out of their busy days for you. Informational interviewing is an excellent form of networking because the people you interview will often connect you with additional contacts or provide you with job leads.

Informational interviewing sample questions:

  • What is it like to work for this company?
  • What is the management philosophy?
  • Could you describe the training involved in your position?
  • What are the necessary qualifications to be hired for this position?
  • What are the work conditions like?
  • What type of supervision is involved with this job?
  • What type of person fits in best here?
  • Do you suggest I speak with anyone else to learn more about this field?

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