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Networking

Networking does not need to be a mysterious or challenging process. Networking is speaking to individuals who know about an industry, a company, a location or a career path that interests you. Your goal is to talk with people who share your interest and can offer insights to gaining experience. You can effectively network by establishing contacts, introducing yourself to them, preparing to meet with them, and thanking them for their time

Washington and Lee's Office of Alumni Affairs provides students and alumni with Colonnade Connections, the W&L online alumni directory. Colonnade Connections is a great opportunity for student to build their network. Should you have any issues with Colonnade Connections, please contact Alumni Affairs.

As you develop professional contacts, you are creating a path to your first job or internship. Recent articles report that between 65-85% of all jobs are discovered as a direct result of a conversation (networking). Take networking step by step and allow yourself enough time to cultivate meaningful relationships that you will maintain throughout your career.

Want this timeline in handout form? Check out LexLink's Resource Library!

Step 1: Build a List of Contacts

  • Make your list of alumni, family, professors, high school contacts, and friends. 
  • Include those people who seem to know everyone. 
  • Use Colonnade Connections, the W&L online directory, to explore alumni eager to hear from you. Having trouble with Colonnade Connections? Contact Alumni Affairs!
  • Use the Get Connected: W&L Student and Alumni Career Network group on LinkedIn to explore careers and connect with alumni.
  • Career Development can assist you by offering additional suggestions for alumni contacts. 

Step 2: Introductions

  • Introduce yourself via email. 
  • Be brief and indicate your interest in connecting, whether by phone or a face-to-face meeting. 
  • Include your resume as a convenient way of introducing yourself. 
  • You are responsible for making the telephone call(s) to connect. Be persistent and polite. 
  • Expect that you will need to make multiple attempts to connect before things come together. 
  • Most students underestimate the time it takes to connect with alumni. It is not uncommon to be "working your contacts" for a number of weeks before you finally connect.
  • If at a reception or alumni gathering, it is always appropriate to introduce yourself in person with a 30-second elevator pitch. After you have met someone in person, add them to your contact list, and follow up saying thank you and your appreciation of their advice. 

Step 3: Prepare

Know the Industry
    • Organize your thoughts and know what you want to learn from the meeting. 
    • Know the industry: who are the major players, what are the trends or challenges, and what competitors are doing. Be ready to offer your observations and explain your interest in the field. 
    • Ask open-ended questions which offer the greatest opportunity for gathering information and identifying contacts for your continued networking.
Know Yourself
    • Practice your introduction with a friend, faculty member, or career advisor. 
    • Become comfortable discussing your skills and how you acquired them.
    • Examples:
      • I've gotten quite good at working with people and operating a community program through Campus Kitchens.
      • This year I implemented a healthy menu series designed to meet our budget guidelines.  

Step 4: Always Say Thank You!

  • Promptly send a handwritten thank-you note following your conversation or meeting. 
  • You will stand-out from the crowd by taking the time to express a personal thank you. 
  • Courtesy goes a long way toward creating a positive professional image. 
  • It is professional etiquette to stay in touch with your new colleague. Send a brief update note at least three times a year to maintain the relationship.
  • Offer to share your knowledge and advice to other W&L students. The network is only as good as you make it!

Remember, networking can happen anywhere! Social media has changed the landscape of communication and given us even more ways to network. Social media can both help and hurt your reputation when networking and job searching.