How to Keep in Touch with Contacts: Networking Beyond the Web

Preparation for summer internships is officially in full swing, and while you may be tempted to direct all of your attention to getting ready for spring break, it is not the time to forget any great connections you’ve made at previous internships, jobs, or networking events. We all know that it’s important to maintain the relationships formed through these previous internships and jobs, but what happens afterwards? While keeping in touch via the internet (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) is helpful, true networking extends beyond the computer screen. Here’s what you need to know post-packing up your cubicle:  

Send a hand-written thank you note expressing your appreciation. Snail mail isn’t dead, and there’s nothing like receiving a short-but-sweet note thanking your boss/supervisor for the opportunity and then mentioning a specific example of what you learned through the experience and how it has helped you. Since so few people take the time to do this, it will really make you stand out.

Take initiative. When you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone, it’s easy to grab a drink and become a wallflower. But instead of hiding in a corner, summon your inner-Michelle Obama and approach that group of potential contacts or employers like the networking-savvy girl you are. Introduce yourself, share a tidbit of information, and be ready to listen. The more your contact talks, the more you will learn. 

Practice your self-introduction. Don’t allow your nerves to get the best of you. To avoid becoming tongue-tied, the Career Center of the University of California at Berkeley recommends preparing “a self-introduction that is clear, interesting, and well delivered. What you say about yourself will depend on the nature of the event, but in any case, it shouldn't take longer than 8-10 seconds. Although practicing your introduction might at first seem silly and artificial, it will eventually help you make an introduction that sounds natural, confident, and smooth.” There you go! 

Do your homework. Before meeting with a professional for an interview or someone that is taking the time to speak with you, take it upon yourself to do a little research on what projects they’re working on or what non-profit organizations they’re involved in. They will be impressed that you put in the extra effort. 

Make simple business cards. When you meet someone new and the opportunity presents itself, be it in an interview or on the subway, hand them a customized card that you created at moo.com. Along with your name, school and e-mail address, add your own flair with a photo and/or personal design. 

Follow up. If you find yourself having a great conversation with an alumni who has your Dream Job, Career Solutions at Lehigh University recommends sending an e-mail within 24-48 hours. In addition, “Thank them for the time spent with you at the event and let them know you would like to remain in touch. Ask if they would consider meeting or speaking with you further for an informational interview.” Why are informational interviews so important? According to Career Solutions, “One out of 12 of these meetings can lead to an internship or full-time position, compared to 1 out of 500 online applications.” 

Dress to impress. Now is not the occasion to bust out the Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy push-up bra and stilettos you’ve been itching to wear. While this doesn’t mean you have to go break the bank at Nordstrom’s, it doesn’t hurt to invest in a nice blouse and skirt, or a pants- or skirt suit. When attending interviews or meetings, business-casual usually works best. 

Ask questions. Part of what is so beneficial about networking is having the opportunity to ask questions from the pros. Even simple questions such as, “How did you get started in this industry/field?” or “What do you enjoy the most/least about your career?” are great conversation starters. 

Smile. Go ahead; show off those pearly-whites (you only suffered years of painful orthodontia for them, right?). Be enthusiastic and energetic. If you’re not interested in what you’re talking about, why should anyone else be? So the next time you find yourself face-to-face with a high-profile editor or happen to be waiting in the grocery checkout line next to a woman wearing your college alumni sweatshirt, keep these tips in mind and you’ll already be on your way to career success! Sources: Career Solutions at Lehigh University Career Center of University of California at Berkeley