More than a decade ago, a handwritten note helped secure a career path for Dee King.
She was preparing to graduate from Missouri State University into an economic recession. “I can remember everyone telling me the chances that you’re going to find a job in your field or in Springfield are very slim,” she says. “I knew that I needed to start trying to network.”
She worked the summer as an unpaid intern for the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. Then, three months before graduation, University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center Sales Director Christine Huffington-Ruble spoke in one of King’s classes. Wanting to meaningfully connect, King sent her a thank-you note.
Weeks later, the phone rang. Huffington-Ruble asked King to interview for a sales manager position. During the process, King’s professor and internship supervisor advocated for her. Turns out, the three women had mutual professional connections.
King says a desire for connection through networking helped her land the job.
“It’s about getting to know someone and forming a genuine relationship,” she says.
King’s advice on networking
Variety is crucial.
“It’s natural to be drawn to people who are similar to you, but that isn’t how you grow a valuable network. Seek out people who are different from you. It’s often the connections you least expect that end up making the biggest impact.”
Forget your elevator speech.
“It’s about the person, not a pitch. Your goal when you meet someone new is to get to know them on a personal level. You won’t make a genuine connection if you’re thinking about what you can get from someone. Think about who you could connect them with and be generous in helping grow their network.”
Watch your body language.
“If you’re always attached to another person or talking with a group, people will not feel comfortable breaking in to meet you. It may feel awkward, but to ensure you are easy to approach, be comfortable with, at times, standing alone while you wait for an opportunity to meet someone new.”
Follow-up is key.
“Meeting someone only cracks open the door for a meaningful connection. I’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities from networking, but never from the first meeting. Relationships take time. After meeting someone, reach out within a day or two. Let them know what you enjoyed about your conversation and keep the conversation going.”
You’ll get out of it what you put into it.
“You have to put in effort and energy throughout your entire career. Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes, it feels like it isn’t worth the time. But if you keep at it, you’ll have a world open up that wouldn’t exist without it.”
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.