Networking stands on the top of the priority list for many international students. They understand its importance from conversations with professors, career advice from career counselors and the alumni panels on campus. Many come to interEDGE, not with the question “should I spend time in networking or not?” but “how can I build my network?”
Many international students complain about the ineffectiveness of their networking and feel puzzled how and when the return will be yield with the hard work. The right approach to look at networking is to use the analogy of farming. It takes time, but the reward may be double, triple or multiplied if you are doing it right.
Let’s take a look at what is networking.
Networking is a deliberate activity to establish, maintain and leverage relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. A substantial and extensive network are critical to your career success. If you start building it now, you will find it will serve as the launchpad for your success over and over again for many years to come. You may have top-notch education credentials, extraordinary technical skills, and admirable work ethics, but all will go unnoticed without a good broadcasting system – your network – to get the words out and bring the news in.
Note the abovementioned definition. There are three necessary steps of successful networking: establish, maintain and leverage.
The first step. You can initiate a professional connection through an in-person meeting, a LinkedIn invite, an email, or an informational interview. During this stage, you introduce yourself to the counterpart and, in return, learn about his/her background and interests. Through the initial interaction, you will leave the first impression about your professional profile and probably your personality.
A connection can be started with or without a referral. Either may lead to very rewarding relationships. If you were not referred through someone, what you need to keep in mind is to present an even stronger reason for the other person to connect with you
A one-time contact typically doesn’t lead to anywhere, unless it was facilitated through a previous relationship of trust. To strengthen a professional relationship, it is critical to regularly connect with that person. Seasonal greetings may be appreciated but too weak to maintain an active professional relationship. It is when two of you exchange information or engage in projects of common professional interests that the connection further grows. You may feel more comfortable staying as a subordinate professional because of your student role, but stepping up as an equal player and presenting views or interesting work will facilitate intellectually stimulating interactions to advance the professional relationship.
Don’t forget the final goal of networking. Most of us certainly get joy from connecting with like-minded people and having thought-provoking conversations; however, to transfer your connections to the strategic network of resources requires you to engage the other person in collaboration opportunities that are mutually beneficial through complimenting on each other’s resources for individual success and growth.
This can be the hardest part. Many international students ask “how do I ask for that favor?” or “why would be he/she help me?” I encourage you to look the other way around and ask “what you can offer him/her?” and find the reason for which he/she wants to help you.
At interEDGE, we use an acronym, SKIN, to help you map out resources and strength of yours and the others. Look in these four areas to be creative of what you can offer to a professional relationship.
- Skill: what skills do I know that can be helpful to the other person?
- Knowledge: what knowledge do I have that he/she doesn’t?
- Information: what information can I share that he/she doesn’t know (yet)?
- Network: who do I know that he/she may appreciate connecting with?
Do the same assessment of your connection and ensure you are leveraging this relationship in a way that benefits both sides.
- Skill: what skills can I learn from him or her?
- Knowledge: what knowledge does he/she offer that would help me in some way?
- Information: what information does he/she have that would be useful to me?
- Network: who might he/she be able to introduce me to?
Don’t be afraid to ask for support or help, but be prepared to give something in return.
We are curious what is one thing you will do after reading this post. Leave us a comment below.