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We’re pleased to be joining you for another year of sharing business communication tips and techniques.

With many students looking ahead to the job-search process, this is a great time to discuss professional networking.

Networking is a multi-purpose learning tool because it combines so many important business communication skills, from conducting research and adopting the “you” attitude to writing concise messages and engaging in one-on-one conversations both in person and online. Here are some quick tips for helping your students hone their networking skills:

  • Remind them that networking is the process of making informal connections with mutually beneficial business contacts. With employers relying so heavily on referrals as a major recruiting source, fostering network connections has become an essential career skill.
  • The concept of mutual benefits is key: would-be networkers who race around looking for people to help them without offering anything in return won’t build much of a network.
  • Networking takes place wherever and whenever people communicate: at industry functions, social gatherings, alumni reunions—and all over the Internet, from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter.
  • Students should start building their networks now, before they need them. Classmates could end up being some of their most valuable contacts over the long haul.
  • Branch out by identifying people with similar interests in target professions, industries, and companies. Read news sites, blogs, and other online sources. Follow industry leaders on Twitter and individual executives at target companies to learn about their interests and concerns. Be on the lookout for career-oriented Tweetups. Connect with people on LinkedIn and Facebook, particularly in groups dedicated to particular career interests.
  • Depending on the system and the settings on individual users’ accounts, students may be able to introduce themselves via public or private messages. Of course, it’s vital to be respectful of people and not take up much of their time.
  • Student business organizations, especially those with ties to professional organizations, are a great networking opportunity. Students can also visit local trade shows to learn about various industries and rub shoulders with people who work in those industries.
  • By volunteering, students can meet people in business and demonstrate the ability to communicate and collaborate on various projects.

Remind students to pay close attention to networking etiquette:

  • Learn something about the people with whom they want to connect.
  • Don’t overwhelm others with too many messages or requests.
  • Be succinct in all communication efforts.
  • Don’t give out other people’s names and contact information without their permission to do so.
  • Never email a résumé to complete strangers.
  • Remember to say thanks every time someone offers help.

To become a valued network member, students need to be able to help others in some way. They may not have any influential contacts yet, but because they’re actively researching a number of industries and trends in their own job searches, they probably have valuable information they can share via their social networks, blog, or Twitter account. Or they might simply be able to connect one person with another who can help.

Finally and most emphatically, remind students that employers judge them by their social networks, so they must use discretion in making online connections. Also, students should be aware that some employers contact people in a candidate’s social networks for background information, even if the candidate doesn’t list those people as references.

If you have any thoughts on using networking as a teaching tool, please share them in the comments.

Best wishes for a successful year!

 

Image credit: Dell