These days it can be difficult to motivate yourself to change out of your pajamas, let alone make progress towards your career goals. However, there are tangible, low-effort actions you can take that will put you in a position to be a stronger job candidate and even do some non-pajama networking.

1. Write (and practice) your elevator pitch

It is important to be able to succinctly summarize your experience and what you are looking for in your next career move. This can be useful in networking coffee chats, interviews, and career fairs. A pitch should introduce yourself, describe your experience and background, and state what you hope your next career step will be.

Typically, at in person settings, the pitch is delivered orally. One advantage of a virtual format is you have many more options at your disposal; for example, you could consider making a powerpoint slide to share in an email pitch to a potential mentor or contact. This slide or other tools can be used to organize your thoughts and ideas into a coherent pitch. It can also help foster a connection and guide discussion.

2. Make sure your social media is squeaky clean and up to date

Let’s face it, there is a lot of information about us on the internet, and we have to assume that potential employers will look into it. You should make sure that any internet searches for your name yield information that you want an employer to see. Start by cleaning up your social media accounts to make sure you wouldn’t be embarrassed if a potential employer saw what you’ve been posting. Next, update your LinkedIn account with your latest accomplishments (for tips, see this article from CAPD). Finally, make sure any groups you’re a part of have an updated picture and description of your activities including your research group website, extracurricular groups, societies, etc.

3. Refresh your LinkedIn connections

Now that your LinkedIn profile is up to date, it’s time to do the same with your connections. Invite any colleagues, professors, friends, etc. to join your LinkedIn network. It may seem silly, but LinkedIn is a powerful tool to find 2nd degree connections, i.e. friends of friends. It’s a small world, and you will be surprised at how many people you have existing connections to.

Found a 2nd degree connection that you are interested in talking to? There are two approaches:

    1. Reach out to them directly. In this case it is important to personalize the message, stating who you are (elevator pitch!) and why you want to connect with them.
    2. Ask your 1st degree connection to introduce you. This has a higher chance of success than a cold call.

4. Check in with older friends or colleagues

Remember that older graduate student that graduated when you were just starting in the lab? They may have a career you aspire to or have formed connections at companies you are interested in. Regardless, they likely have valuable experience to share regarding the networking process and job search. Ask if they are available for a quick 30-minute phone call to catch up. During the call, you should ask if they have other connections you can talk to.

MIT offers several options to expand your search beyond immediate connections. Check out MIT Advisors Hub and connect with MIT alumni that have volunteered to talk with and mentor current students. Additionally, the MIT Alumni Association offers several resources for current students nearing graduation.

5. Do your research on key players at relevant companies

Let’s say your friend connected you with a higher up at your dream company. Make sure you do your due diligence to understand their role and relevant experience – in other words, do your research! This can help you understand how they arrived at their current positions and prepare you to ask targeted questions during a conversation.

Even if you currently don’t have connections to a company you are interested in, researching key people at these companies is useful to understand the qualities and skills that they are looking for in potential hires. This is particularly important for start-ups, as relevant experience is the difference between a successful start-up and a flop.

Networking can be intimidating but by following these easy, low-effort action items, you will be well on your way to building a solid networking base that can help move you towards your next career step.

Katharine Greco is a graduate student in the Brushett Lab and a ChemE Communication Fellow.

Blog tags: #networking #careers