Why do I need to network?
Networking is a critical skill in today’s world but, often, it can feel uncomfortable reaching out to people that you don’t know and asking for help. One of the big advantages of studying at CMC is that you are surrounded by peers, alumni, parents, faculty and administrators who are all willing to be part of your network during your exploration and recruitment.
You are far more likely to have successful outcomes if you learn to ask for help, whenever you are unsure of how to proceed. People in your network, who have more experience than you, are great resources to give you advice and guidance when you need it.
You may believe that networking is like “using” someone, because you are taking from them without giving anything in return. The joy of being part of a network is that it is a two-way street. You may be asking for help and guidance now, but you may also be in a position, sometime in the future, to help that same person in a different way. So long as you are courteous, genuine and respectful, you are not “using” someone!
What is Exploratory Networking?
This type of networking is ideal early in your collegiate life or when you are connecting with people in an industry that you do not know much about. When you contact a professional, professor, employer, recruiter or CMC alumnus as part of your exploratory networking, you are reaching out to ask for information or to learn about company culture or a career path. You are NOT asking for a job. The goal of informational interviewing is to either talk with them on the phone or to schedule an in-person meeting. Remember, as a new CMC student, you are not expected to know detailed information about industries, roles or career paths. Take advantage of this perception, ask lots of questions and explore!
The conversations are very general and consist of questions like:
- How did your CMC education and experiences prepare you for a role in your field?
- What are your day to day activities/responsibilities?
- What do you like about your role?
- How did you learn about opportunities in your field?
- What are other organizations that provide this type of work?
- How can I learn more about your field?
Exploratory networking exercises include:
- Use LinkedIn to find 10 CMC alumni who are in roles that are completely unknown to you. Reach out to learn what they like about their role, how they found it and where they started their career.
- Use the Alumni Career Contacts Directory to find alumni and parents in your ﬁeld of interest to see if their career might be a ﬁt for you.
- Utilize the Student Internship Database to connect with fellow students who have shared their internship experiences.
What is Strategic Networking?
Often, when students talk about networking, they are referring to strategic networking. This type of networking is focused on learning specific information that is hard to find via web-based research, and/or making connections that will advocate for a recent or pending application. For these reasons, strategic networking typically occurs later in your search activity. Statistically, networking is the most effective way to find a job or internship. Networking plays a critical role in filling 70 percent of jobs across the country.
As you search for networking contacts, keep these helpful tips in mind:
- Share information, ideas, resources and contacts with others. Networking is a two-way process.
- Know basic information about careers that interest you.
- Keep a well-documented record of your contacts: how, when, details of the conversation and any follow-up necessary.
How do I start building my professional network?
Think of everyone you meet as a networking contact.
Connect with the CMC community - Members of Claremont McKenna College (and the greater 5C community) are an amazing resource community for guidance and experience development. Building relationships with fellow CMCers is an excellent way to expand your professional network in any stage of your career. Whether you are seeking to conduct an informational interview with a professional, research a specific company or explore a path to graduate school, turn to your alumni network as a rich source of information and opportunity.
Utilize the Alumni and Parent Career Contacts Directory to connect with alumni and parents.
Utilize the CMC Internship Database and Handshake to connect with fellow students.
Talk with your professors!
Connect with the CMC Alumni Association on LinkedIn
Actively use LinkedIn as a resource to identify alumni, career paths and constituent groups; memorialize relationships by connecting with individuals you interact with on LinkedIn
Get involved with a student organization – many student organizations are chartered through national organizations. Getting involved with these groups could give you opportunities to meet people outside of your college.
Get to know your college professors and administrators – your professors and campus administrators are another great resource for you, but only if you seek them out.
Keep a well-documented record of your contacts – how, when, details of the conversation and any follow up as necessary.
How do I contact/make outreach to people in my network?
Networking through email is a useful and effective way to reach out to busy professionals and alumni without being intrusive. However, as they are, in fact, busy professionals, it is important to craft a concise message to open the conversation.
An informational interview is an informal discussion where one individual is looking to obtain information and advice (on careers, schools, industries, etc.) from another individual. An informational interview differs from a formal interview because the conversation is not about hiring or a specific opportunity; it covers a wide range of topics and is supposed to be purely informational in nature.
An informational interview request is the first step in the process and is often done via email or LinkedIn. Informational interviews are not to be taken lightly; they require thorough preparation, sincerity and focus.
Insider's Tip! Often when sending out networking emails, students will cut and paste information about themselves. Although this technique is acceptable, it is riddled with risks, including grammar mistakes and different fonts/sizes/colors. Therefore, if you are using cut and paste, please be sure to carefully reread your email before it is sent and highlight all text to change the font size, color and typeface to ensure the contact receives a clean, professional message that is error-free.
Informational Interview Request Email
Subject: Question from a CMC Student
I’m a freshman at Claremont McKenna College who is interested in discovering more about the record business. I see from your LinkedIn profile that you’re working as a record producer at EMI Records and have extensive experience in the music business. Would you be open to a 15 minute phone call to discuss the music industry as a possible career path? I would like to ask you about your experience and your advice on breaking into this field. [Give the contact a time frame and topics to be discussed. The more specific you can be on discussion topics, the more productive the phone call will be.]
My contact information is included below. I am sure you have many demands on your time, so I thank you for considering my request. I hope to speak with you soon!
Sample Questions for an Informational Interview
- How did you enter this job/career?
- What do you do in a typical day?
- What are the most interesting aspects of your job?
- What do you like least about this career? What do you find dull or repetitious?
- How would you recommend someone break into this field?
- What educational background is required?
- What kind of person would be best suited for this career in terms of personality, interest, and skills?
- What kind of experience or internship would be helpful in this career?
- Are there specific courses you would suggest for a student to take that would be particularly beneficial in this field?
- Is travel expected with this job?
- What types of training do companies give to people entering this field?
- What technologies are integrated into this career?
- What special advice would you give to a young person entering this field?
- How do you see the jobs in the field changing over the next five years? What can I do to prepare myself for such changes?
- As a female or male, would I have any special challenges in a career in this field?
- How can I learn more about this career/job?
- What professional organizations are active and responsive in this career field?
- Are there any other individuals you recommend I speak with to learn more about this career?
- What are some job titles of entry-level positions in the career field? What is the career trajectory?
- What is a typical salary range in this field?
- What advice would you give on locating opportunities, the timeframe for applying, and the application process?