When searching for a new job or embarking on a new career path, who you know can make all the difference. Someone who knows you and trusts in your professional skills putting in a good word on your behalf can go a long way to landing an interview, and ultimately, a job.

In Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job, author Eric P. Kramer writes that “research shows that as many as 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking” (154). There are many ways to make these all-important connections — Jeff Butterfield recently suggested a few — but ultimately, you might find yourself in a sort of pre-interview situation with a networking contact. It’s during this sit-down, Kramer points out, that you have the opportunity to let this networking contact know as much about your professional skills as possible. This will make it far easier for him or her to feel comfortable and confident in helping you reach your career goals. To organize your approach to this conversation, Kramer suggests creating a “networking presentation,” which is a simplified version of what you’d prepare for an interview. He suggests including the following sections:

  • An clear explanation of your personal brand. Tell a clear story about yourself up front to help shape an overall impression so you don’t leave it up to someone else to decide for you.
  • Positions in which you have interest and can add value. What specific job titles or types of jobs are you interested in? By spelling that out as clearly as possible, it gives your networking contact a better picture of roles to which he or she could refer you.
  • Your areas of expertise. Where do you shine? Outline specific job-related skills that you perform well. It’ll not only give your contact a better picture of where you may fit in an organization, it will boost his or her confidence in your skills.
  • Noteworthy accomplishments. Share specific examples of career successes. Hearing the positive contributions you’ve made to organizations you’ve worked for or are working for engage interest and help contacts envision the contributions you could make at other organizations.
  • Personal qualities that make you successful on the job. Skills and experience don’t complete an ideal candidate — share this information so your networking contact gets to know you on a more personal level.
  • Responsibilities involved in your ideal job. Let your contact know what your ideal role looks like on a day-to-day level. Responsibilities you enjoy may lend themselves well to a job you hadn’t considered before.
  • Institutions or organizations for which you’d like to work. What are the characteristics of an organization for which you’d like to work? Try to share some specific examples that stand out as organizations where you could see yourself working.
  • The benefits you’d bring to an organization or institution. Why would your networking contact want to refer you? List these specifically for your contact so he or she can spell them out to set you up for an interview.
  • A list of questions. Don’t walk away without making sure your networking contact has a good understanding of what you’re looking for, where you’d like to work, and what you bring to the table. (pp. 153-155)

Share these ideas with students who are looking to start a career and know what they want to do, but need to get a foot in the door, or keep them in mind if you’re looking to expand your own network. Though you may not be looking, and thus don’t need to put together a presentation at this point, expanding your network can have benefits such as garnering new teaching ideas or having a contact when you are interested in seeing what’s out there.

Content adapted from Kramer, Eric P. 2012. Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job, First Edition. Boston: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.

Where are your favorite places to network and meet new people: National conferences, smaller meetings, philanthropic activities? Where do you recommend students with degrees in your field make networking connections? Share your ideas and success stories with us in the comments section below.