Three activities to start networking in a FLASH!

Networking may feel a little strange if you are not used to it. Between coffee chats and career fairs, it can feel a bit uncomfortable if you haven’t taken the necessary time to prepare yourself to engage your network. Keep in mind that you have already been networking your entire life. From seeking recommendations from friends about products and services, to asking a family member for help in navigating your application process, to chatting with people online for the best places to visit while traveling–you have been engaging in networking!

Here are three activities that you can do to help you initiate, build, and deepen your existing network:

1. Initiate by Mad-Lib-ing an introduction

Developing an elevator pitch is a great way to get into a networking mindset. In addition to reflecting on what you have accomplished so far, an elevator pitch is also a great way to start to determine what you want out of your connection. Use this Mad-Lib 60-second Introduction to help you not only think about meaningful parts of your background you would like to share, but also encourage you to think about what you would like to learn more about. Even if you are uncertain, share that! It is perfectly alright to share that you might just want to learn a little more about them.

2. Build a Company-Connection Finder

Based on Steve Dalton’s 2-hour Job Search, you can use a list of organizations and employers you are interested in to help you strategize how you might want to grow your network.

  1. Start by listing off companies and organization you might be interested in learning more about. These can be your “dream employers”, companies that you may already have a networking connection with, groups that are actively hiring or just growing rapidly.
  2. Identify potential connections you might have through the organization. You might need to use resources like LinkedIn or Alumni Advisors Hub to determine how you might have connections.
  3. Determine your level of motivation. If you are more interested, try to prioritize those more.
  4. Find positions that might be of interest to you. Take time to review the types of open positions, the qualifications needed, and how interested in them you might be.

Here is an example list you can use or modify for your specific needs:

Your list will help you think about areas you may want to focus on regarding growing your specific network to aid your career.  As you start to act on this list, remember to use your informational interviewing and networking skills to help you navigate the process.

3. Deepen your connections to have a Personal Board of Directors

Conceived by Kate Hutson, a personal board of directors is a group of individuals that you have assembled as part of your network to help you develop and navigate your career. These individuals can be peers, friends, family members, colleagues, or leaders that you can reach out to for advice, guidance, and feedback.

As part of your network, find people who…

  • will celebrate you
  • validate your feelings
  • remind you of your good qualities
  • have a strong career identity
  • will be an advocate for you
  • foster psychological safety
  • will give you honest feedback
  • hold you accountable
  • will mentor you
  • share knowledge
  • are good at finishing tasks
  • challenge you to go bigger
  • have more experience than you
  • are a great connector
  • have organizational power
  • will help you develop your skills
  • make you feel heard
  • are a sounding board for you
  • navigate workplace politics well
  • are a great coach
  • will encourage you with challenges
  • are a leader you admire
  • know the unwritten rules of a company
  • has good…
Personal Board of Directors BINGO card what lists the qualities of different individuals in a five by five square grid.

You can use the above bingo card to give you a fun way to assemble this very important group of people for your future career! Feel free to add/edit any part of the list that makes the most sense for you. The goal with a personal board of directors is to have a diverse group of people who will add to your viewpoint and perspective—so avoid having everyone from the same industry or organization.

Feeling as though you still have some big gaps in your network? Consider expanding your network through informational interviewing and utilizing tools available to the MIT community like Alumni Advisors Hub. Meet with a career advisor in CAPD to help you strategize what you may need to do to leverage and grow your network.