How to Make Professional Friends

UB alumus is talking with a group of student at the career conversations.

80% of jobs or internships are found by making connections with professionals and alumni. The more professional friends you have in your network, the better your chances of finding the right opportunity.

Getting Connected Is Easier Than You Think

Often, hearing the words “connections” and “networking” can easily make your heart beat faster and your palms start to sweat. 😰 😱 

It’s Okay. Take a DEEP breath.

Think of “connections” or people in your “professional network” to be more like friends. Friends tend to help friends when they are in need. 

What Types of Professional Friends Are There?

The more professional friends you make, the wider your network becomes which can lead to more jobs, internships and opportunities.

  1. An Adviser - someone who has done what you want to do.
  2. An Advice Giver - someone that is in a different field than you.
  3. A Connector - someone who knows people who have done it before.
  4. An Expert - someone who you trust who will give you honest feedback.
  5. A Backup - someone who you might need in the future.
  6. An Alum - someone who was a former student at the University at Buffalo.
Tips for Meeting People

• Don't forget to introduce yourself and remember to thank them for their time.
• When wearing a name tag at a networking event, place it on your right side, so that when somebody shakes your hand, it's easier to read your name.

Ways to Make Professional Friends

Meet Alumni Meet Employers Informational Interviews

An informational interview sounds more complex and scarier than it really is. It's just a conversation with someone, like a professional or alum, about their career story as well as insider tips about a job/internship, industry or company. Everyone has a story to tell so just ask about it.

Hint: Just like you, when they started out, someone probably helped them along the way.

Tips for Starting a Conversation

  • Introduce yourself, be friendly, smile and most of all, be you.

How to introduce yourself in person

Hello, my name is [fill in your name].

I'm completing a degree in [fill in your degree] at the University at Buffalo with a minor in [fill in your minor] (if applicable).

I am interested in a career in [fill in the position] in the [fill in the industry] field.

During college, I have been involved in [fill in your extracurriculars, organizations, volunteering opportunities] and developed skills in [fill in skills] (e.g., communication, leadership, time-management).

While working/interning as a [fill in position title] with [fill in company name], I contributed by [fill in what you did], and discovered that I really enjoy [fill in  your new discoveries].

How to introduce yourself online

UB alumni introduction

Dear Mr./Ms. [Last Name]

I'm a student at University at Buffalo, and I see from your profile that you were a(n) [fill in your major] major at UB.  I know that you're in the [fill in the industry the person works in] industry working at [fill in the company the person works at]. I was hoping to connect with you to see if I can ask you some questions or to see if you have any tips for me as I'm interested in getting in the [fill in the industry the person works in again] industry too.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

How to prepare for a video interview

  • Test your virtual technology before the interview and make sure you have a good internet connection.
    👉 Pro Tip: If possible, use an Ethernet cable to connect to your modem to ensure you have a reliable internet connection. 
  • Practice. Use Big Interview, a free online video interviewing tool, to practice your interview style.
  • Turn off all notifications and close all nonessential apps and programs on your device.
  • Dress as you would for an in-person interview. See what to wear.
  • Make sure your background is uncluttered.
    👉 Pro Tip: If possible, try to avoid having a bright light behind you or use an appropiate virtual background.
  • Limit background noise. If you’re sharing a living space, let others know you will be on an important call, so they’re quiet during your interview.
  • Use your preferred name in your virtual platform address, not just a user name or email address.
  • Be on time. Log in 7 – 10 minutes before the start of the interview.
  • Keep your video on. It's a video interview as opposed to a phone interview, they want to see you.
    👉 Pro Tip: Be aware of your facial expression when you’re listening to the interviewer. Keep it positive and show you’re open to what they’re saying.  
  • Make eye contact.
    👉 Pro Tip: Raise your screen to eye level and about an arm’s length away. Minimize your screen and move your thumbnail view of the person you're talking to towards the top middle of your screen. That way, when you look at them, you will also be looking into your camera and you'll have better eye contact.
  • Come prepared with potential topics and questions to ask.
  • Thank them for their time.
  • Ask to see if you can continue your conversation later on the UB Career Connector Network and/or connect with them on LinkedIn.

Questions you could ask

Your UB Experience

I see that you're a UB alum...

  • How did your UB degree prepare your for your current position?
  • What was your UB experience like?
  • What advice do you have about choosing a major or a career path?
  • Looking back, what do you wish you would have know about this field when you first started?
  • When did you know you wanted to study your major?
  • What habits in college helped you with the first 6 months of your job?
  • What much did connections/networking helped you land your job?
  • What risks did you take in college and in your career that lead to success?

Career story

  • What is your educational background? How did you decide to go into this field?
  • How did you get started in this field?
  • Does the career path require an advanced degree and if so, is a master’s or PhD a better choice?
  • What do you wish you would have known prior to entering this field?
  • What is a typical career path for individuals in your position?
  • Did you take any risks in your career? How did that make you stronger?
  • Have you ever failed at something in your career? What did you learn from it?

A day in the life

  • What are your major duties and responsibilities?
  • What do you do during a typical work day/week?
  • What do you find most rewarding about your job?
  • What were the positions that you had that led to this one?
  • What do you like most and least about your job?

Meet the employer

  • What is the size of your company/organization?
  • Are you a global company/organization?
  • Where do you have offices?
  • What are the challenges facing this industry today?
  • What sets your company/organization apart from similar ones in this industry?

Workplace culture

  • What are your biggest challenges or problems that you must deal with?
  • Do you work primarily alone or in collaboration with others? With whom?
  • Who evaluates your performance? How is this done?
  • What kind of on-the-job training is provided?
  • What is the on-boarding process like for a new employee?

Work life balance

  • Is there travel involved with your job?
  • How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, work hours, vacation, etc.?
  • What hours do individuals in this job usually work? Is there much flexibility in those?
  • How would you describe your work environment?
  • What obligation does your work place upon you, outside of the ordinary work week?

Tips & advice

  • What kinds of skills should a job seeker highlight in resumes and interviews?
  • What advice do you have for me as I break into this field?
  • How do you see technology changing/influencing this field?
  • What specific aspects of my background should I highlight or sell the most when applying for positions?
  • Do I have to develop some skills or gain some experiences to make myself more competitive?
  • What is a typical entry-level salary in this field? 

Next steps

  • Do you know other people in the field that I can talk to?
  • Can I use your name when I contact them?
  • If I have any questions can I stay in contact with you?
  • Are there any professional groups in this field you recommend I join?
  • Can I send you an invitation to "connect" on LinkedIn?
Tips for after your informational interview

• Send an email or hand written thank you note after the interview to thank them.
• Be sure to let them know how things worked out and how their advice made a difference.  

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