“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity”Keith Ferrazzi
Game planning: It’s what you do before you hit the field (or court, ice, etc). Academic planning: It’s what you do before you log in for course selection. Now, what should you do when it comes to career planning? For many, it’s a safe pick to say that strategically mapping your network can pay big dividends, not just when it comes to securing a meaningful internship or job by putting a face to your application, but in building lasting, genuine relationships that can serve you well in future moments of indecision or challenge even while on the job.
Here’s a simple, yet productive five-step activity to go about mapping your existing (1st degree) and potential (2nd or 3rd degree) network—give it a spin!
Step 1: With a piece of paper and a writing utensil (yes, those still exist), start by writing your name in the center, and circle it. (Tip: write small so you can maximize space–you’ll need it!).
Step 2: Draw a small line from your circle to another space and write between 3-4 influential people that have contributed to your professional, academic, and/or social development. These individuals may include family, friends, mentors, coaches, professors, etc. Afterwards, list out how the individual spends their time. Consider and make note of the following:
- What do they study, and if so, what? Do they work on campus or nearby? Are they a part of any clubs, organizations research activities or causes that sound interesting?
- What opportunities have you noticed to get further involved on or off campus in clubs / organizations, special projects, classes, research, part-time work or internships? How do these possibilities connect to the map you just created?
Step 3: Using those closest circles of connection, draw a box around each of those individuals, branching out to 1-3 people they are in connection with, and list their involvements as well. Don’t worry if you can’t give much detail here—note that this is part of the exercise! The objective here is to map out potential connections you’re not as familiar with onto this list.
Step 4: Now that you’ve mapped out some of your 1st and 2nd degree connections, please reflect on the following:
- What contributed to your decision to map out those first few connections? How have they contributed to your personal or professional development?
- Who are some of the people on this illustration that you could benefit to speak with, learn more about, and share your story or goals with? How could you contact them?
- If you’re not sure of at least 2-3 people within someone’s network, what kind of individuals would you hope or imagine that person would be connected to–would it be worthwhile finding out from that person if you can be introduced to a new connection?
Step 5: Finish the following sentence: One action step I can take after this activity to build a new connection or reestablish an existing one that may positively contribute to my professional development or career exploration is…
Okay, pencils down. At the buzzer–nice, you’ve drafted your network map! Don’t’ worry–the first draft doesn’t have to be a work of art. Now, you may be wondering: “Okay, let’s say I go ahead and reach out to someone in my immediate network or gain an introduction to that friend of a friend. I’ve even managed to set up a conversation. What do I actually say? What do I ask?”
Great question! Heck, you may even be a step before that and wondering how do I even reach out? Lucky for you, the Career Center’s got your back, like a good ol’ teammate. Read this handy advice on how to set up an “informational interview”, view sample questions, and even some best practices on how to follow up appropriately (yes, that’s always a good idea).
Remember, everything (and everyone) is connected in some way. Mapping your current network, identifying your potential individuals you’d like to add to your circle, and leveraging the resources in your possession, is crucial for building meaningful and informative connections that will serve you well in both your professional and personal journey. Yes, it may take time, but just like any successful game plan or course selection process, putting in the sweat equity early on can make your performance that much more effective (and enjoyable)!
—By Jabril Robinson, Assistant Director, Career Education and Diversity Initiatives