Navigate the network

Experts say networking isn’t as difficult as it seems, but you have to be proactive

Image by: Emilie Rabeau

About 80 per cent of the jobs found today are found through networking, according to Queen’s Career Services.

Many employers save themselves the time and money of going through stacks of resumés and rounds of cold interviews when they already have a person from their network in mind to fill the role.

Olivia Whittaker, ArtSci ’15, has networked successfully for past summer jobs — but she said she’s unsure how to expand her network.

Whittaker has worked for makeup companies like Clinique and Sephora by networking through her mother, Clinique’s education director.

“Because I know the people, I was more likely to actually get the job,” she said.

In return, she’s helped expand her friend’s employment networks, hooking them up with connections she’s made through her mother.

Whittaker said she’s looking to expand her network beyond family members, making a name for herself independent of family expectations.

But she isn’t sure what direction she wants to take her career in.

“For not knowing what I want to do in the future, I’m not sure what connections to make,” she said. More instruction on how to start conversations and where to go for the right people is something she’s looking for, she added, but doesn’t know where to find it.

Networking, for Whittaker, is more than just introducing herself.

“It means making connections and introducing yourself to a lot of successful people and hear about new opportunities, expanding your horizons,” she said.

But there’s still a big disconnect between this abstract idea of networking, she added, and making it happen.

“I just don’t even know,” she said. “What do you do? Go talk to a prof? Is that networking? I don’t know.”

Joe Oswald, principal of Knightsbridge — a company focused on finding people jobs and jobs finding people — said networking is important because of an abundance of jobs that go un-posted and unadvertised.

“Our official definition [of networking] … [is] developing and sustaining business relationships with people you know, or would like to know for the purpose of getting and hearing information for mutual gain,” Oswald said.

Whether it’s finding your first babysitting job via your mom’s tennis partner or building a lawn mowing business through a friend’s parents, he said, students have networked throughout their lives. “You’ve probably found more of your jobs to date through networking,” he said. “I think everybody’s doing it — they just don’t realize it.

“Networking is every day, every encounter,” he continued. “It’s happening right now.”

Oswald said university students are no different than anyone else seeking employment. There are many different facets to networking, he added, and navigating the job search can be difficult.

The first step, Oswald said, is developing a goal.

“You have to have some message that you’re delivering in this networking meeting,” Oswald said.

Second, he said, should be creating a personal brand — what you stand for and what makes you unique.

“Then, you get in front of people you do know, people you’d like to know for the purpose of sharing information,” he said. “And the whole idea is that the people you network with will think about you when they get in front of other people.” According to Oswald, the best way to create these pathways is to stand out.

“One of the biggest pitfalls in networking is that when you get in front of someone and you try and sound like everybody else,” he said.

“After you finish giving this mission and value and brand to this person … the next thing you need to do is [ask] if there is anyone else they recommend who you should meet,” he said. “Networking needs to multiply.”

Networkers should ask questions about the people they’ll be meeting, he said, and make personal connections to get conversations rolling.

Most importantly, every network meeting should be mutually beneficial. At the end of each, Oswald said, students should ask what they can do for the person in front of them.

While networking is common to build connections when looking for a job, Oswald said asking everyone you meet for a job can be a recipe for disaster.

“Sometimes, people think you have to have some crazy technique and ask in the right way and have a hidden agenda,” he said, “but the truth is asking good open-ended questions, listening and being authentic is the only thing that will work.”

While networking can take the shape of formal gatherings, career fairs and dinners, it likely occurs every day of a student’s life — even online.

Social media sites like LinkedIn are commonly used throughout the business world and job market, Oswald said.

At Queen’s, Career Services offers workshops throughout the school year on how to construct an online presence, particularly on LinkedIn.

“You want to think about your digital footprint,” Miguel Hahn, a career counselor at Career Services, told the Journal via email. “Googling yourself is probably a good idea.”

In January, Hahn said, Queen’s will introduce an online forum on LinkedIn to crowd source advice from alumni on career and professional development.

“I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve ever met that has done things by themselves,” he said.

“A community has helped you get to where you are and you have been helping each other … Most things are accomplished with other people and it can be enjoyable to help people too.”

Networking doesn’t just happen, Hahn said. Either online or in-person, students have to put themselves out there, exploring the possibilities and people that may connect them to their future goals.

“I think the most important thing is looking at [networking] as a skill you can develop,” he said. “You can learn it by practicing it.”

Attending events like Queen’s Career Fair — scheduled for Sept. 30 in the ARC main gym — can also be beneficial, Hahn said.

“You might think networking is talking to a professional,” he said, “but it can also be developing relationships with your classmates.”

Kyle Beaudry, Comm ’15, said establishing connections helped him land a summer job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Canada in financial services. PwC Canada provides advisory and tax services to public, private and government clients.

“I did networking and recruiting, that whole process, in the fall of third-year with all the different accounting firms,” Beaudry said. “They came on the first weekend of September … they were set up in BioSci and you dressed up and you went for it.”

Beaudry, the president of the Commerce Society, said networking is an opportunity to connect with someone you haven’t met, focusing on the personal aspect of things to make the connection deeper and more memorable.

He’s shared connections over an interest in books before, for example.

“A lot of people get nervous and worked up, but for me it’s always been just a discussion,” he said. “These people here [to network] don’t want to be here anymore that you, so you’re both kind of forced into this position.

“That’s kind of driven me not to ask very standardized transactional questions and try to break that bubble,” he said.

Beaudry said he initially focuses on asking two serious questions, spinning off into questions unrelated to work and engaging the person in a more enjoyable conversation.

Follow-up emails are something he uses to stand out, he said — referring back to books, places of travel or other topics that were discussed to connect the dots in the new relationship.

“It’s important to connect on more than just your job,” he said.


Career Services, Careers, Job Search, Networking

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