Networking is a way to develop relationships that help you gain insight into an industry, a company, or a career path. Given that 65 to 85 percent of jobs are found through networking, it should be the focus of about 80 percent of your allotted search time.

A step-by-step guide to successful networking

Access the HBS Network

The HBS Alumni Directory (login required) contains information on more than 70,000 HBS community members. Use your Lifelong E-mail Forwarding Address (LEFA) to access the Alumni Directory and locate fellow alumni by name, class, location, company, and position, to name only a few of the many search categories.

Join the HBS Alumni group on LinkedIn, an extension of the HBS alumni network. LinkedIn enables you to present yourself and your professional capabilities, find and re-connect with colleagues and classmates, build a powerful network of trusted professionals, tap into inside connections and information, and much more.

There are over 80 alumni clubs and associations around the globe providing opportunities for learning, networking, and socializing. Meetings usually focus on topics of professional interest, with speakers drawn from industry, government, education, the arts, and other backgrounds.

 

Target Contacts and Companies

Create a list of contacts beginning with "warm" colleagues you know well. Next, list "cooler" contacts made through industry associations, magazines articles, trade journals, professional directories, and Web-based resources.
Also develop a list of companies you are interested in learning more about. Use this list during your meetings to help contacts refer you.

 

Develop Your Positioning Statement

Sharpen your focus by creating an "elevator speech" that describes your background and objectives in two minutes or less. Your speech should have four parts:

  • Introduction—Who you are.
    "I have over __ years of experience in __."
  • Three skills—Your experience (you can include HBS degree)
    "For the past 3 years I have been __."
  • What you are looking for—This will become more focused as your search progresses
    "I am looking for __ position in __ industry."
  • Question—How the contact can help you
    "Are you aware of any __?" or "I'd welcome your thoughts on what is happening in __ industry."
 
 

Make Contact

Outreach can be conducted via e-mail or phone. Be direct so your contact knows the purpose of your outreach. Let him/her know you will be in touch to set up a time to speak and be sure to follow up as indicated. Be persistent—reaching 30 percent of your contacts is a good result. When you confirm your meeting, send your resume as a reference.



Meet

Conduct your outreach in person or via phone, whichever is most convenient for the contact. Use the time to obtain more subjective, qualitative information rather than factual information that you could find on the company's Web site. Research the company and industry so you can speak about recent news and developments. Remember that effective networking offers value for you and for your colleagues. Be prepared to give advice and referrals as well as receive them.

Start your meeting with more general, open-ended questions; ask about additional contacts or job prospects at the end of the conversation. If you have spoken to other people at the company, weave in points you took away from those conversations. Listen as much as you talk. Above all, be gracious, appreciative, and sensitive to your contact's time.

 

Follow-up

Send a thank you note as soon as possible after the meeting and maintain contact on regular basis. Remember to track all your interactions throughout the networking process to build your contact and target company lists.

 

Samples

Outreach E-mail: "Successes and Obstacles"

Joe Smith suggested I get in touch with you. I have been watching your company and am excited about the direction that ABC Co. is taking in the market. I am particularly impressed with the results in terms of [metric] that _____ has generated.

I hope to learn more about your successes and what you see as remaining obstacles to your continued growth. I know you are extremely busy at this time of year, but I hope that you might grant me a few minutes to discuss your work. I'll follow up with you next Tuesday to see if we can set a convenient time. Feel free to contact me at 617.555.1212 or e-mail me at _____.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and I look forward to speaking with you.

 

Outreach E-mail: "In the News"

Joe Smith suggested I get in touch with you. I have been watching your company and am excited about the direction that ABC Co. is taking in the market. I am particularly impressed with the results in terms of [metric] that _____ has generated. After having worked for 10 years in a related field facing a similar challenge, I am very impressed with what you have accomplished in your firm.

I read your comments BusinessWeek and I was struck by your insight into _____. I would like to discuss this further. I know you are extremely busy at this time of year, but I hope that you might grant me a few minutes to discuss your work. I'll follow up with you next Tuesday to see if we can set a convenient time. Feel free to contact me at 617.555.1212 or e-mail me at _____.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and I look forward to speaking with you.

 

Meeting Questions

  • How did you decide to work in this field? For this company?
  • What is your background? How did you position yourself for this field?
  • What do you see as the strategic goals for the company? For your department?
  • What kinds of challenges do you face in this industry? What keeps your CEO up at night?
  • What have you learned through your position? What skills do you typically use?
  • What have you learned through your position? What skills do you typically use?
  • Do you have any advice for me as I go through the job-search process?
  • What are the most difficult problems/decisions/challenges you face?
  • Is there anything that has surprised you about this field/company, either positive or negative?
  • When people leave this organization, what types of positions do they pursue?
  • If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
  • Is your firm currently hiring in the XYZ division?
    • [If yes] I would be very interested in applying. Is there a contact that I should follow up with directly, or if I sent you my resume, would you be able to forward it on?
    • [If no] Are there other divisions that might have roles that could be a fit with my background and interests? I would appreciate you keeping me in mind if positions surface at your firm in the future or if you hear of other opportunities in this industry that might be a fit.
  • Are there books/trade journals you would recommend that I read to best prepare for a career in this industry?
  • Are there any professional associations or conferences that are especially relevant for this industry?
  • If you were in my position, embarking on a career in this industry, what companies would you suggest I target?
  • Can you recommend other people I might talk to in this industry?
 

Thank You Email After Informational Interview

  • Dear Dr. Schultz:

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss career opportunities with me. The in-store veterinary care program you are spearheading sounds like a promising initiative. I remain enthusiastic about Pet Depot and look forward to speaking with Roc Suttees and Peter Toro.

    As we discussed, I have enclosed my resume for your review. I believe that my financial planning abilities and team experiences would allow me to make a significant contribution to Pet Depot's Strategic Planning Team.

    Please let me know if you learn of any appropriate opportunities. Thank you again for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Ken Keefe

  • Dear Ms. Lorac:

    Thank you for meeting with me last Thursday morning.

    The suggestions you made for improving my resume were very helpful, and the information you gave me about the plans to expand the marketing division's operations stimulated some interesting thoughts.

    I am delighted that you feel my special knowledge and experience could be of value in developing your new line of flexible fasteners. It was good of you to offer to talk with Philip Wilson on my behalf and to see if his plans have progressed far enough to warrant an interview at this time. Nothing would please me more than an opportunity to become part of Multicorp's management team for such a challenging and exciting program.

    Thank you again for your time and personal interest. I will call you on Wednesday to see if you were able to arrange a meeting with Mr. Wilson.

    Sincerely,
    John Wesson

  • Dear Ms. Wilson,

    Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I appreciate your review of my resume and our discussion about the kinds of opportunities I can most profitably pursue. The ideas and the information you provided will be most helpful.

    Following up on your suggestions, I have already written to Paul Colby, Louis Newman, and Gail Nelson, and plan to follow through with them next week to arrange meetings. Of course, I will let you know what results from those contacts.

    It was very thoughtful of you to offer to do some more thinking about people I should contact -- particularly in Allied Industries and MicroCorp. As we agreed, I will call you again next Thursday to see if you have some specific people to suggest.

    Thanks again for a good meeting and for your continued interest in my career development.

    Sincerely,
    George Lambert