Nayantara Dutta is a Trends Researcher at J. Walter Thompson who started reading We Are Next when she was still a student. As a Psychology major who barely knew anyone in advertising, she had to build her network from scratch and learned a lot along the way. Now on the other side, she shares her detailed tips on making networking more personal, both in-person and online. Because we all know how crucial connecting with people in the industry is in your career. (It's an awesome expansion of last week's email on reaching out to potential mentors!) Here's Nayantara—
Writing applications can feel like a job in and of itself. The good news? The people on the other side are here to help! As you make new connections, whether online or in person, here are a few tips to make networking feel more personal.
Show personal interest. Before an interview, find out if the person you’re talking to has a blog, watch their YouTube videos, and show interest in their hobbies and side projects. Networking can seem like such a formal task that we forget to talk to each other as people! The most enjoyable and memorable conversations I’ve had have started from making a personal connection before asking for career advice. It can be the difference between making a contact and finding a mentor.
Ask about their journey. Rather than discussing the logistics of their career path, ask people what surprised them about their company, if they can share a meaningful experience they’ve had there, and if they feel they’ve grown or changed since they started. It can give you some of the most detailed insight into work culture, which will also help you write your cover letter.
If possible, meet in person: As a student living in Boston, I would plan networking trips to New York where I would follow up with people I had talked to on the phone, and ask I could stop by their office and say hi. Knowing how busy people in advertising are, they were more likely to respond positively since it wouldn't take up much of their time and they wouldn't have to go out of their way to meet. As a student, this is your golden ticket. I was able to visualize my life in that office, make an in-person connection, and ask to meet their coworkers—even HR! Putting a face to a name is priceless.
Share your goals. One of my favorite things about our industry is how willing people are to give back and invest in young talent. Share your hopes and goals with everyone you talk to, ask for their advice, and find out if they know anyone who would be helpful to talk to. This will help people remember you and can help you find advocates in the industry.
Take notes. Before writing an application, I would try to schedule 1-3 phone interviews with people working at the company and take notes on not only the facts they mentioned, but also the experiences they shared. This was extremely useful when writing applications, and years later, has helped me reconnect with people by remembering the details of their story.
Keep a record of your network. While I was searching for jobs, I started an Excel sheet with companies I was interested in, the contacts I had there, and my last point of contact with them. This let me visualize my progress with applications, kept me accountable for following up with my connections, and helped the process seem more manageable. I also have a tab for my contacts’ birthdays, which helps me wish them well during the year!
Target junior talent. Junior employees can be very helpful contacts, as we remember our career search, can offer advice we wish we were given, and often have more free time to chat. Reach out to us!
Lastly, networking doesn’t stop after you get a job. I was surprised to find that I still actively network, even after being settled into a full-time job. It’s wonderful to feel supported by strangers, get advice from people who have lived extremely different experiences, and feel like a part of a much bigger movement.
See you on the other side! We believe in you!
Nayantara used her networking tips to make one of her own dreams come true. She recently released a trend report about Millennial Muslim women via The Drum that was originally her senior thesis!
Connect with Nayantara via social (@nayantaradutta) or her website.