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Net-Savvy Networking: A New Spin on an Old Standby

Net-Savvy Networking: A New Spin on an Old Standby

Peter Vogt, MonsterTRAK Career Coach

If you’re looking for a creative, effective way to learn about an industry and make helpful professional contacts, consider the successful electronic strategy employed by Exuper Okouya, a third-year student at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

Okouya, a 25-year-old French citizen who’s majoring in biochemistry, arrived in Canada two years ago with his only real goal being to “adapt to the North American way of life.” He soon had the urge, however, to talk to people who could help him learn about a field that intrigued him: Management consulting.

But like many college students, Okouya didn’t have much of a network. So he decided to build one the new-fashioned way — with email. He began emailing professionals at various companies, not to ask for a job or an internship, but simply to request advice and information. And it worked — better than even he thought it would.

“I sent out nearly 30 emails over a period of three months and got 14 answers,” says Okouya. “Most of the people who responded answered my basic questions and gave me insider advice on where management consulting is going, and what to expect in terms of the industry recruiting new graduates in the next few years.”

Perhaps even better, though, a few of the people who replied to Okouya’s emails gave him the names of people in the Montreal area who work in management consulting. Now, he plans to contact those people to set up face-to-face meetings with them.

In a nutshell, Okouya has taken the long-established technique of informational interviewing — talking to people in a field of interest to learn more about that field and how to break into it — and gave a 21st-century twist by talking to people via email.

How did he find people to send emails to, and more importantly, how did he get their specific email addresses? It wasn’t as difficult as you might think. For starters, he wrote to people whose names and email addresses appeared in Fast Company magazine, a business publication that typically includes the email addresses of the professionals and experts interviewed for its articles. He gathered additional names and email addresses from career and industry Web sites.

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