Have faith that effective networking will result in helpful information about job possibilities. You also dramatically increase your probability of getting an interview if you have arrived at a job prospect through your own networking efforts than through other means. The personal contact involved in networking enhances your status as a candidate as compared with more anonymous application methods such as job boards, company web sites, and print ads.
Networking will often result in a job prospect that did not exist before you networked. Positions are sometimes created to accommodate a terrific person who contacts an organization proactively.
The reasons for this have to do with the nature of the job market and the way organizations work. The only jobs that are posted on job boards are those that have been identified as a need, approved by the organization’s bureaucracy, and posted. This is an arduous process in many organizations. Jobs may be at various stages of the HR process, from being written as a formal listing through approval of the personnel requisition. Often, managers do not bother to seek approval for a personnel requisition (“req”) until they have found a qualified candidate; this makes life easier for them. You may never even see those job descriptions.
This can be an extremely important part of building your network and finding a job. Often people are interested in a particular career or corporation but do not have any contacts. By setting up an information interview, you can make a contact, find out more about the company and the career, and get a foot in the door for future job openings.
If you really do not know anyone, then setting up an information interview will start with some research on the company and the employees and will be followed by a cold call to the person that you would like to meet with. As intimidating as this may seem, people are surprisingly willing to talk about themselves. So you may be pleasantly surprised at the reception you receive provided that you preface the request in the right manner. You need to ensure that you let the person know that you are a recent or soon to be graduate and are interested in a career in his/her field and would be grateful if he/she would have a few moments to talk to you about what he/she does and the pros and cons of his/her career choice. You do not want them to think that you are calling them to try and get a job.
When you go to meet for the information interview be sure to dress professionally. Although this is not a job interview, the impression that you make on this person could be vital for the future.
Be prepared, have a short list of questions that you would like to ask and try not to take up too much time.
If you are meeting for coffee or lunch you should be prepared to offer to pay for the drinks/meal. Basically, if you invite, you pay.
Have a resume in your bag, but do not give it to him/her unless she/he asks for it.
At the end of the interview you can give him/her one of your contact cards and let him/her know that if they do hear of any opportunities that you would be thankful if he/she would let you know.
Be sure to follow up with a thank you card. This is extremely important and can make or break his/her impression of you.
It is important to keep a journal or notebook detailing sources you have consulted and thoughts or ideas you have had. This way you will not have to worry about forgetting to follow up on a lead. You will also be able to pick up where you left off the next time you sit down to work, rather than inadvertently duplicating your research efforts. Perhaps most importantly of all, you will remember to follow up on leads generated by your networking contacts and to keep in regular contact with them as you continue your career exploration and/or development.