Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a strong network to utilize in your career and business. A recent article from TopResume showed that 60% of jobs are found through networking instead of online or recruiters. But how do you go about building a network?
On May 19, 2020, the David Eccles Alumni Network and Business Career Services held their first-ever virtual SMART Start Event: Build your Network via Zoom to answer this question. A panel of six dynamite alums from a range of industries and stages in their careers spoke to current Eccles School students about the importance of networking throughout college and their careers.
Many people struggle with networking due to a variety of factors like fear of rejection, difficulties beginning a conversation, shyness, etc., which many of the students attending the event reiterated.
Here are six pieces of advice from the alumni panelists to help squash these fears and build a successful network:
- Take advantage of the Eccles School resources.
Sarah Miller, a recent grad and associate product manager at Overstock.com, mentioned how much utilizing the Eccles School resources helped her in building her network and finding her first job. “Take advantage of the professors at the business school. They are so genuine and willing to help you succeed,” Miller offered. “Don’t be afraid to set up a meeting with them. They also have really great industry connections you can tap in to.” The Eccles School has many resources for network building including Business Career Services, the Eccles Alumni LinkedIn group, ConnectU, SMART Start events like this one, and many other alumni events that students can also attend.
- Never eat alone.
Clayton Perkins, a six-time startup entrepreneur, thought back to his time in school and said that if there was one thing he wished he had known during college, it was to never eat alone. He encouraged everyone in attendance to find the smartest people in all their classes and become friends with them and network with them. “Those friendships that you build right now are the friendships that could lead to new career opportunities and connections you just can’t even think about today,” Perkins explained. “I don’t see how any of the positions I’ve been in haven’t come from networking. Take every opportunity to go out to lunch and meet people that you can because you never know where those relationships might lead.”
- Social networks are just as important as business networks.
“I made two major career pivots in my life, and both of them were made from my social friendships and my social network, not my business network,” said Brandon Creswell, director of finance at the John Moran Eye Center. “You don’t know where these opportunities are going to come from so let people know you’re interested. If they don’t know, they can’t help you.” Creswell addressed the aspect of fear regarding networking with the insight that a social network is just as important and could be a great place to start if you’re nervous about building your business network.
- Be authentic and curious.
Greg Price, senior director of people and talent at Health Equity, took a page out of the Eccles School mission with his advice to be authentic and continuously curious. He stated, “It’s a far more engaging interaction networking when you declare your intentions and agenda, and you get that agenda by being curious and trying new things.” He suggested making a list of the top 10 reasons why a company should hire you to use as an icebreaker when networking to communicate your most authentic self. “Be vulnerable in the experience, and it’ll pay off,” he added.
- Don’t get discouraged.
“You’re going to reach out to people and some of those times, you aren’t going to get a response, but don’t get discouraged. It doesn’t take much to open those doors,” said Elaina Pappas, vice president of marketing and fan development at the Utah Jazz. She also recommended thinking outside the box with potential networking connections. “Network within your company but also with people outside of your company like vendors or partners,” Pappas suggested. “You never know when your reputation will come full circle and work in your favor.”
- Nurture relationships with people you connect with.
Suzanne Wilson, chief marketing officer at Gaidge, talked about the importance of continuing to network and build relationships with the connections you do make. She also mentioned that widespread networking with everyone works for some people but sometimes honing in on those few really great connections is just as valuable as having a lot of connections. “Once you connect with someone, really do your part to continue to nurture those relationships,” Wilson said.
Your premier Eccles Experience. SMART Start is a program partnership between Business Career Services and the David Eccles Alumni Network. It provides Eccles School undergraduate and specialized master’s graduate students the opportunity to interact with alumni from across a variety of business fields and aims to provide students and alumni a way to engage in an organic approach to mentorship and networking. For more information on how you can be involved as an alum or student, contact Chelsey Alberico at Chelsey.Alberico@Eccles.Utah.edu.