Networking Online: Tips for the New Normal
Using the Student-Alumni Career Connect System (SACC)
So, you want to make contact with a professional who does what you are thinking of doing for a career but need a connection? We got you!
The Student-Alumni Career Connect (SACC) is an online database of Rutgers alumni willing to provide career advice. Search alumni by career community, major, job title, employer, and more to learn about their career paths. Contact alumni for career advice, and network your way to success! This system is open to students and alumni.
Keep the following tips in mind to get the most out of the platform and your networking experience:
- Plan ahead: Be sure to give lead-time (a week or more) before your expected response date (especially if this is for a class assignment).
- Reach out to multiple alumni:consider sending requests for contact to multiple alumni. You’ll be in a better position to get a quicker response, and will be more likely to get multiple insights.
- Use SACC templates: need help creating a message to reach out to alumni? The SACC platform offers templates that you can customize.
- Manners matter: courteous behavior before and during your contact is always a positive reflection of you, and of current Rutgers students. Great impressions take you farther!
- Follow-through: If you agree upon a date or state that you’ll take on a follow-up action, be sure to mark your schedule so you’ll honor your commitment. Doing so builds your ability to network again when needed.
- About the mentors: alumni mentors are friendly and willing to assist in your career journey. Yet it's important that you have patience when waiting to hear back from them, especially since they, like you, are likely making adjustments such as working from home during this pandemic.
- Sending multiple requests to the same mentor: It’s fine to contact the same alumnus again after at least one week has passed, however, know that the system is designed to automatically give them a reminder message as well. Note, we ask that you do not overwhelm them with requests.
- Later on….: six to 12 months later, it could make you a standout to follow up with the same alumnus you spoke with. Tell them about how you took that class or internship they suggested, the impact, and gain more insights from them.
- Discussion groups: click the “groups” link in SACC to ask or contribute to a group discussion with other students or multiple alumni.
Great networking skills will have a great impact throughout your career. Keep these tips in mind:
- Focus only on a job search: Your focus should be on gaining career insights and on networking. Feel free to take advantage of any job advice that might come up in your conversation.
- Stray too far off-topic: remember that alumni mentors are expecting to help you explore careers.
- Hijack the conversation: given they are in a profession of interest to you, and they are there to help you explore careers, be sure you’re listening more than speaking.
- Plan at least 10 career questions ahead of your meeting with an alumnus. Time is valuable, and you want to get the most out of your time together.
- See this as a conversation and yourself as someone who can contribute to it: tell them what’s currently happening at their alma mater or in your academic program.
- SMILE – whether using the video call via the platform or via a call, smiling when speaking makes your voice sound warmer and friendlier.
- Be sure to send a thank-you note soon after you have concluded your time with the alumni mentor you have met with.
Using LinkedIn Effectively
WHERE TO START
Write a Catchy Profile Headline: Your headline is one of the first things people will see on LinkedIn. Keep it short, memorable, and professional. Try addressing your area of study and ambition. For example, “Human Resources Major and Aspiring Compensation Analyst,” or some of your skill sets.
Pick an Appropriate Photo: Upload a high-quality headshot photo of yourself alone and professionally dressed and/or appropriately dressed based on the field you intend to work in. No party shots, family photos, or cuddly animal pictures!
Create Your Unique LinkedIn URL: By creating a unique URL (i.e. linkedin.com/in/JoeSmith) and setting your LinkedIn profile to “public” you’re increasing the professional results that appear when people search for you online. This is also a more appealing URL to add to your resume!
Develop a Professional Summary: The professional summary is one of the most important sections on the profile. It’s your opportunity to present exactly what you have to offer on your own terms. The summary statement should be clear, and concise about your qualifications and goals. Include relevant work, extracurricular, and skill information.
Show Off Your Education: Include major, minor, and study abroad or summer programs. No need to be modest. LinkedIn is the right place to show off honors and awards as well!
Include Other Experiential Education: Internship and work experience is great, but don’t forget related activities including clubs and organizations, community service, and research experience.
Don’t Go Overboard: Once you get started it’s tempting to include everything, but be selective. Keep in mind, “What’s your goal?” It’s important to modify your LinkedIn content based on objective, just like your resume.
Grow Your Network: Begin connecting once you have created your profile. You recognize a co-worker from your part-time job, connect. Your parent’s friend you’ve known since you were little, connect. Use the “Alumni Tool” feature by going to the Rutgers University page and then Alumni. Use the tool to find potential contacts who attended Rutgers University.
Connect with Personalized Invitations: LinkedIn will provide you with a generic connection request e-mail. Customize as many connection requests as possible. Address something that resonates with you from when you met or on their profile, why you’re connecting, and thank them for the opportunity to do so.
Collect Diverse Recommendations: Ask internship or work supervisors, professors, and others who have worked with you for recommendations. Strive for at least one recommendation for each position you’ve had. Feel free to guide your contact on what to write about in the recommendation. What skills are you trying to highlight and how did you use and develop those skills during your time working with him/her? They may even appreciate the refresher.
Participant in LinkedIn Groups: Joining groups associated with your career interest not only exposes you to people you are interested in connecting with, but it also helps create your brand.
GETTING THE MOST
Conduct Informational Interviews: The informational interview is an informal conversation with someone working in an area of interest to you. Once you’ve connected with a new contact on LinkedIn consider requesting a phone or virtual informational interview. It is a great way to learn about someone’s career path, how they got to where they are, and any advice they may have for you.
Engage with Your Network: Stay in touch. Send interesting articles, congratulate for work anniversaries, and most importantly, update individuals on your internship or job search. A LinkedIn contact is only valuable if there’s a quality relationship associated with it.
Ask for Help: If you have been staying in touch with a contact, it is okay to ask for help. “Would you be willing to review my resume?” If you are applying for a position at their organization, “Do you happen to know who the hiring manager is?” Asking for a referral should be approached thoughtfully. Only ask for a referral if the individual can vouch for your work experience and always leave some room for the individual to say “no.” “I’m wondering if you’d be willing to refer me for (blank) position, but understand if you cannot.”
Share through Posts:Create a post to share and start conversations about what you’re reading, ask for advice or ideas, and to respond to industry news, trending topics, and other significant events. Share consistently; this helps build a relationship and habit around your content.
Enrich Your Content:Include a photo or video with your post. Posts with images or media draw people in and bring your post to life. Use relevant hashtags#: Use a # to indicate what your post is about. Hashtags are searchable and help your content get found.
Do Not go Dormant: Once your LinkedIn page is created, and active, do not go dormant. Spend at least thirty minutes a week connecting with new contacts, reconnecting with existing contacts, engaging with your network, and sharing through posts.
Staff Tips on Networking Virtually
Remove any distractions from your viewer's eyesight
– Sharon Fash
Pay attention to LinkedIn-Join relevant Linkedin groups.
– MaryBeth Kimberlin
When networking share why you would like to make the connection with the contact. Be polite, professional, and strategic with your request.
– Lisa Goddard
Think about individuals in your core circle (family, friends, professors, mentors) and see if they can connect you to additional contacts from their network that may be a valuable resource for you.
– Michelle St. George
Before your interview, plan on practicing a few trial sessions, bringing forth confidence and a good facial expression. Have a copy of your resume and any other supporting documents that you may need to reference during the interview.
– Toni Berlingieri
Create a LinkedIn profile that stands out! Making a good first impression is always important when networking in person and it’s as equally important when networking online! CES can help you get started on creating a polished LinkedIn profile.
– Paola Puerta Dominguez
1. Connect early and often! Always include a note about your career interests are and why you are reaching out to that particular person.
2. Don't be afraid to reach out! You already have something in common with alumni....the RU experience! Our alumni are truly fantastic and want to connect.
– Stacey Kohler
Be proactive, but patient. Be proactive in building your network by reaching out to professionals in your target industry through LinkedIn and Student-Alumni Career Connect (SACC), but be patient if they do not immediately respond - they may be struggling to juggle working from home while caring for young children or perhaps even facing a potential layoff. I recommend giving connections at least one week to reply, at which point you can be proactive and follow up.
– Catarina Caulfield
Remember that people's schedules are changed as they balance home and work responsibilities. You might see emails come in at odd hours and on the weekends, but you should still be respectful of the typical 9 to 5 workweek and do not ask to communicate on the weekends.
– Barbara Zito
Find and reach out to alumni mentors who are 'online now' in the Student-Alumni Career Connect by looking for the filled green circles next to their profile images. Use the 'chat now' button to reach out!
Put a sticky note with a smiley face next to your laptop camera to remind you to look into the camera when meeting online with employers.
– Barbara Thomson
1. Schedule an informational interview with alumni in your field of interests, don't ask them for a job at the end, ask them if there is anyone else within their network you can speak with next to continue learning and growing your network.
2. Start cultivating a network BEFORE you are at the point of needing job/internship assistance. "
– William Jones
If current opportunities do not meet your criteria, and you are interested in the organization, don't hesitate to request the employer representative's contact information for reaching out when such opportunities are available with the organization. Please provide them with a unique quality (something that is not general) that makes you interested in the organization to remember you.
– Shalini Jain
Schedule meetings with your current professional connections (current or former supervisors, professors, mentors, colleagues, etc.) to discuss your career goals and current and future opportunities in which you hope to connect. They may have professionals contacts they could introduce you to for informational interviews, discussions about networking events, or potential work opportunities.
– Lyn Baier
Show up for virtual events and keep your camera on. You are more likely to stay engaged if you know they can see you. Ask questions throughout the event and email the contacts you are interested in networking with. Email them within a day after the event (or immediately after) to express interest and ask a follow-up question. Fewer people do this than you think, so just making a little bit of effort will go a long way.
– Topher Sutton
Be yourself - let your personality shine through the screen and take time to share about who you are and what you enjoy doing. Despite our virtual settings, connections are still made through shared interests and genuine conversation.
Be empathetic - understand that we are all adapting to these challenging times and give grace to others if they need to reschedule, run late, or have interruptions during conversations. Give yourself that same grace as well.
– Becca Baier
I highly recommend using our Student and Alumni Career Connect (SACC), LinkedIn, and your current contacts (friends, family, etc.) to grow your contact base, and to stay in touch fairly regularly by sending personal messages with updates to your status and to reinforce your interest in them and their organization.
Also, if you are in virtual meetings with any of your contacts, make sure you let others that you live with know that you will be in a meeting to minimize distractions and interruptions.
– David Bills
When do you successfully connect with someone, try to solidify two ways to follow up on that first contact. First, make sure you have learned one area of their work that you can follow up on (e.g. "I saw this article and thought about our discussion on X." ). You should also ask if you can keep them up-to-date on your own journey. Having that reassurance that they're interested will help you feel comfortable and confident when you reach out about new internships, a job interview, or other updates that they may be able to help you navigate.
– Susan Bennett
Not everyone has a built-in connection to the industry they want to be part of. To 'cold contact' individuals, use Student-Alumni Career Connect (SACC) and/or LinkedIn Alum to find an individual that has an affiliation to the organization you want to work for. By finding an alum, you have a shared commonality of being a Rutgers student to help spur conversation. By finding someone in a particular organization you may want to work for, you can learn more about what it's like to work there, organization culture, types of roles, etc. People are often willing to help and share their experiences in a fun, productive, and lighthearted conversation- so don't be afraid to reach out!
– Rania Plazas
If you have a LinkedIn account, it's never too late to contact contacts you may not have communicated within a while. It's much better to reconnect BEFORE you need something from them, though. To reconnect, try saying you hope they're doing well and apologize for not being in touch for some time (if it makes sense, not always necessary). Let them know you've been thinking about the shared experience (describe it) you have, and genuinely ask how they're doing. Once they respond, let them know how you're doing. A dormant contact has now become a revived/new contact! Continue to stay in touch every couple of months! You never know when you may need their assistance and vice versa.
– Tamara Peters
Networking has moved virtually. Networking is about connections. Start with your Brand. What image do you wish to present that is memorable? It should be more than a resume with details of your jobs and accomplishments. Write a story, a short bio, that gets the reader to want to learn more about you and what you offer. Be genuine, use keywords, show passion, and interest. Use LinkedIn. It has a profile that is a short summary which is the most viewed to readers. If you have a short video of you presenting, add it to your LinkedIn. Join online professional associations related to your interests on a specific topic or field. Virtual connections will remember you if you engage in collaborative conversation, seek advice, or acknowledging their recent professional accomplishments. Building relationships include share information and your point of view on a topic of mutual interest. Nurture networking online. Visit with CES Career Advisors who can get you started or strengthen your Brand and networking strategies!
– Larry Jacobs
NEW: With limitations on in-person events, career fairs, and meetings, understanding how to cultivate and build a virtual network is more important than ever! Start by establishing a spreadsheet for your networking contact's information, including name, e-mail, phone number, company, position, and how you heard of this person. Start with the connections that are easier to make - family, relatives, friends, professors, advisors, supervisors, work colleagues - in short, people you already know. Interview them for information about their educational backgrounds, careers, advice and recommendations. Thank them and ask each for one or two "referrals" to whom you might reach out to speak with to gain more information about a job/career/internship or industry. Write thank you notes to all! Utilize LinkedIn's "Alumni Career Tool" feature to identify RU alumni in fields of interest. Send a note asking to connect to these selected professionals, and seek to conduct a phone or video informational interview. Also, log-in to Career Exploration & Success office's website to access the "Student Alumni Career Connect" (SACC) platform to connect with RU alumni who have volunteered to connect with you! By taking an organized, pro-active and polite approach, you can actively build your on-line network and gain valuable career information!
– Scott Borden