Networking Now: Tuck’s Rebecca Joffrey Shares Insights

As upperclassmen prepare for the real world, there is a real need to be able to socialize and network in ways that are appropriate for corporate America. At Dartmouth, we often engage in social behaviors that are not conducive to making a positive impression on someone; as we get closer to graduation, we must be able to properly network with bosses and colleagues at our sweet New York internships. To help out those in need of a serious social skills makeover, the Dartmouth Business Journal spoke to Rebecca Joffrey TU’97, Co-Director of Tuck’s Career Services, to get some networking insights. Her industry background includes marketing at Nestle and American Express. After business school, she founded The LookOut, the country’s first online mentoring system. 

Dartmouth Business Journal (DBJ): Can you define networking in the simplest terms possible?

Rebecca Joffrey (RJ): Networking is about having great conversations so that you can get people on your side in whatever goals that you are achieving. It is not transactional….it’s not about having a conversation to get a job. It’s about winning people over so that they ultimately like you, and when you do that effectively, people want to help and they will help you. You are always being networked with and [must] recognize that too. It’s a very give and take thing.

DBJ: What do you think are the benefits of networking?

RJ: Inaverybigsense,Ithinkitisa competitive world. It is a fast-paced world. It is a confusing world, and the more people you have on your team, the better. You’re building a support network of people who you can call when you have questions, and who you can ask specifically for jobs when the time is right. But it can’t be the first thing that you ask them, and that’s where people get it wrong. I think they see it as “I need something, therefore I need to network,” and it’s not like that.

DBJ: Do you think it is important to ask executive leadership how they got to where they are?

RJ:I think that is part of the art of a good conversation. It’s being curious about people and constantly looking for stories. Especially early in your career, you’re trying to understand the world out there and the best way to do it is to just ask somebody: “So how did you get there? What was your journey like? What was the biggest surprise?” And another good technique of networking is to have what I call a list of “filter questions.” These are the kind of questions you ask everybody, every time you meet somebody. You [might] say, “Tell me about your journey.”

DBJ: People talk about the “elevator speech”–the speech you would give to introduce yourself to a CEO in the elevator. Is the elevator speech an effective tool in networking?

RJ: I am a big believer in “networking moments,” and that is when you are going through any kind of change in your life or a job search or anything where you are finding the need to reach out to people. So the trick is [to] know which stage you are in in a job search or in another process, and know what the question is you are trying to answer. An elevator pitch has more to do with that networking moment than anything. It’s the ability to articulate where you are in the process, what it is you need, and [who] the person is [who] can help you with it. If I was [involved with job searching], it might be, “I have an interview next week at American Express. I have done a lot of research, so I think I know something about the company, but what I don’t understand is the actual job. You work at American Express, I wonder if you could describe your job to me.”

Sometimes what happens with Tuck students and with undergrads is that you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You are lost in the middle of a job search and it’s very hard to articulate [what you want]–that is your pitch! So you could say, for example, “I am really good at speaking foreign languages and I know I want to use that in my job, but I do not quite know what that looks like. I am calling you because someone said that you work globally, and I am wondering what your perspective is on types of roles where I would be using a language in your company. I wonder if you could tell me about that.” So you don’t have to know your goal, you just have to know what it is you need right then in order to move to the next stage of the process.

Everybody thinks that [an elevator speech] is about saying what you want to say, [but] it’s much more about [knowing who a person is and] asking that person a question. That is surprising to people.

DBJ: Do you think there are any specific things you can do to impress a boss or higher-up once you establish more than just a general relationship with him or her?

RJ: One important thing that has to do maybe more with networking than impressing people is just being a really good listener. When you reach out to people, they give you advice, and maybe you have heard it before. Maybe it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you think they don’t understand where you’re coming from. It doesn’t matter. Say thank you and listen to what they say. And it may not be relevant to you right then, but you may realize the relevance later. But the person who constantly says, “Oh no I did that,” “Oh yeah I tried that and it didn’t work”– that person is someone no one wants to [work] with.

DBJ: What are the common mistakes that undergrads make at internships or at networking events?

RJ: The first one is that they think they are the guest…and if they play host and not guest they will be in a better frame of mind. Go up to somebody and say, “Are you enjoying your time in Hanover? Can I get you some coffee? What have you done while you have been here?” Pretend that you’re the host and engage the person in a conversation. I think that mindset shift makes it easier to engage people.

The second is that everyone is clustered around one person, and there is always one person over there completely [alone]. Go talk to that person. It’s not about the company that person works for…it’s about who that person knows, and their willingness to share [information] with you. So the person standing by himself or herself may work for a company that you are not interested in at all, but he or she might be [part of] the class of 2000 and they know 800 other people. They have a lot of contacts. So that’s what networking is. It’s about getting that person on your side and getting them to say, “Oh I know somebody who is doing that.” Because then the next step is you write to that person who is doing exactly what it is you want and you say, “I met your best friend at this networking event.” That’s your introduction.

The [quality] of the connection is also important. When you reach out to someone, you want to make that connection as warm as possible. The

likelihood] that they will return your call. So if it is, “You went to Dartmouth, I went to Dartmouth”– [that’s only] lukewarm. If they don’t respond to you, don’t be offended. Another mistake that students make is that they get so offended when somebody doesn’t return their call or email. If [the introduction] wasn’t warm, then they have a whole list of people to call and they are going to go for the one that’s warmest.

DBJ: How do you follow up after networking with someone that you really connected with?

RJ: Email is great [because you can get an immediate response]. If you really want to go above and beyond, a written thank-you note is also appropriate. They are so uncommon these days that it’s a nice surprise. So sometimes it’s nice to do both–just a real quick [email] saying, “Thank you so much. This was really helpful.” And tell them how it was helpful, what your plans are, and then follow up with a written thank-you note.

Thanking people is an on-going process. You should just update people generally now and then. The success does not come immediately. Often it’s further down the line, so always feel free to loop back to people.

DBJ: People talk about building your network. Is maintaining the connections the biggest part of that?

RJ: That’s half the battle. But staying in touch [does not equal] reaching out when you need things. Take advantage

of opportunities to meet alumni. There are alumni who are very curious about how things are today. So the other piece that students miss in networking is that they actually have value to add.

DBJ: Which social media tools are appropriate for networking?

RJ: Facebook is not. That is personal. That is just your friends and keep it that way, because you want a separation between your professional life and your personal life. But employers go on to those things now so be careful [about what you have on there].

I would definitely take advantage of Linkedin. When you meet someone, send them a Linkedin invite. Even if you don’t understand the utility of it now, just make it a habit to connect with people. Because over time, that will become more valuable, especially as you leave Dartmouth.

With Twitter, the goal there is to build expertise. So find something that you’re really passionate about and be the person that finds all the articles, videos, and just start a Twitter feed that positions you as that expert. Then, when people are looking for expertise, they say, “Oh, look, this guy knows something. He has been following it.”

In college, you think of social media as just that–social. And it is social, but it is also about reinforcing an image of yourself.

DBJ: How does a student succeed in a summer internship?

RJ: [Your summer internship] is the time when so much of your success is going to be based on the relationships you build in that organization. Almost more so [than whatever project you’re working on]. The tendency is to sit in your office all day and get [the job] done but there are two advantages to networking: one, you can get your work done faster because your networking moment in a summer internship is what problem are you working on. Figure out within your project, what is your networking moment, what is the problem you are trying to solve, and walk around and ask ten people what their experience is. And you will get your answers a lot faster. [By doing this], you build allies. So when it comes down to should we make this person an offer, do we want to bring them back next summer, do we want to write letters of recommendation, you have a lot of people on your side.

DBJ: Do you have any final general comments on networking?

RJ: I think you can look at it like it’s fun if you just become curious about people. That is the right mindset to have. People get scared off because they [think] they don’t know how to do it. They know how to do it. Open up and engage. And if you’re not comfortable with it, my belief is that you get very good at the things you practice. If you practice networking, you will get good at it.