Building a Professional Network
What is Networking?
Networking is the process of building connections to others. It can be an extremely useful tool to acquire information, advice, and referrals about careers, industries, internship opportunities, and job prospects.
Networking works best if you try to focus on getting advice from the life experience of the individual rather than asking for something, like a job or internship.
Why is Networking Important?
Did You Know...
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of all jobs are found through networking.
Networking allows you to:
• Expand your knowledge of different career paths, industries, and organizations
• Gain advice about developing your professional skills
• Establish relationships that could launch or further your career
• Differentiate yourself from other candidates
How To Network
Approaching new people, especially if they are in professions you admire, can feel intimidating! We'll break it down for you and help you strategize, so that you'll go in with a plan.
Step 1: Start with people you already know
Share your personal and professional goals. Use your existing network to generate referrals to connect with others who are knowledgeable about your desired industry.
• Extended family
• Friends or acquaintances
• Past or present teachers, professors, or academic advisors
• Past or present supervisors or work colleagues
• Registered student organization (RSO) connections
• Past or present volunteering opportunities
• Virtual connections on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn
Step 2: Build new connections
To make new connections, consider the following actions:
• Participate in an academic or pre-professional registered student organization
• Join a professional organization in your field of interest
• attend a professional conference or employer information sessions
• Volunteer in the community
• Complete an internship or work a part time job
• Create a LinkedIn profile to connect with alumni and professional groups
Step 3: Prepare to Introduce Yourself
Create an elevator pitch, which is a 20-30 seconds speech to introduce yourself. It should include the following pieces of information:
• Who are you? What/why are you interested in the person/company/industry/position?
• (For Jobs/Internships) Why are you qualified? What can you offer them?
• Try to end with an open ended question (What? Where? Why? How?) to keep the conversation moving forward. This question can be a request for a further conversation, or a question about them, to give them an opening to tell you more about themselves and their job. Remember, listening is just as important as talking!
Step 4: Follow up
It is critically important to maintain contact with individuals. Try one or more of the following to build on your relationship:
• Send a handwritten or e-mail thank you note within 24-48 hours after a meeting.
• Request to connect on LinkedIn with a personal message. Do not use the populated message.
• Keep a record of your contacts and referrals.
• Follow through on the advice your contacts shared with you and update them on your progress.
Advice for Networking During Social Engagements
Professional social engagements can include free time at conferences, lunch during a professional development workshop, an alumni reception, a company mixer for interns, and many similar situations. Tips for these situations include:
- Introduce yourself to the organizer. They can explain the organization and introduce you to other attendees.
- When meeting new people, ask open-ended questions. Actively listen to their responses. Build rapport and trust. Your goal should be to cultivate relationships.
- Aim to meet a few new people and begin meaningful dialogue. Exchange contact information with the people that you are truly interested in building a connection with.
- Do not be afraid to join an already established conversation. In most cases, the people will enjoy a chance to meet someone new. If you sense that it is a serious discussion, you can politely excuse yourself.
- Follow up with connections you make within 24-48 hours.