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Cultivating a Network

Networking is a basic career skill, but building a professional network takes time. Think of it as a system of concentric circles with your most valued mentors, friends, and associates in your inner circle. The composition of your active inner circle will change as your professional situation evolves. Remember, however: a helpful lead from someone who knows someone you know can be just as valuable as a tip from your closest mentor.

Here are some tips for effective networking:

  1. Begin early and don’t stop! It’s best if networking connections develop naturally over time. Networking is an ongoing process, whether or not you are employed, so try not to think of it as something you do solely when you’re engaged in a job search.
  2. Actively cultivate your professional network. Have a plan to stay in touch: Your inner circle should be those best positioned to help you: mentors, influential executives, recruiters specializing in your career field, leaders of networking groups, etc. Keep these most important contacts abreast of your professional situation. The second tier or circle should be all others willing to forward a lead to you or scout for opportunities.
  3. Prepare for networking conversations. Research before you call. Prepare questions. Plan a two-way conversation.
  4. Show an appreciation for the value of a person's time. Ask for 15 minutes or so. Offer to call back at a more convenient time, if necessary.
  5. Concisely state the object of your search. If you are making a first transition, you are probably considering several career fields. That's OK, but be as precise as you can. A networking contact resembles a radar in some ways: the more precisely tuned, the more defined and reliable the returns.
  6. Make modest requests. Make it easy for the contact to help you. Attempt to create a relationship.
  7. At the end of the networking conversation, seek an agreement on a next step, if appropriate. May I call you again in a month? Would you be willing to refer me to an associate who might assist me?
  8. Personally thank those who tried to help you. Send a personalized note or email.
  9. Be a giver. Look for ways to help those in your network

Some Ways to Incorporate USMA Connections into Your Network:

  1. West Point Societies and Joint Service Academy Networking Groups: Some West Point Societies have career advisory or business networking programs. If the society in your area of interest does not have a program listed on its Web site, contact the society president to inquire. West Point societies will also be aware of joint service academy networking groups in the geographical area. (See West Point Societies , linked to this Web site.)
  2. SACCentral: (saccentralonline.com) Use SACCentra's networking portal to connect with alumni from all five service academies.
  3. Join our LinkedIn Network: 18,000 strong and growing!
  4. Service Academy Career Conference (SACC): (sacc-jobfair.com) Most know that SACCs are great for job searching, but they are also excellent opportunities to network with company representatives and fellow alumni.