How to Network
Don't just rely on the Internet when searching for a job. It's not the only job-search technique, and many people will tell you it's not the best one. A big portion of your job-search time should be spent connecting with people and networking!
Talk with all your contacts—family, friends, friends of your family, professors, advisors, teaching assistants, internship or summer-job supervisors, recruiters from career fairs, and so on. Tell them about career fields that interest you, and see if they have any suggestions or job leads.
What is Networking?
Networking means building professional relationships. You can plan this out or do it spontaneously. When planned, you often just contact someone to find out if you have mutual interest, then have a conversation about those interests. When you meet new people and discuss mutual interests or goals, you're networking spontaneously. You've probably been networking for years without realizing it! You're networking when you:
- talk to friends, or friends of friends
- chat with your neighbors
- volunteer somewhere
- stay in contact with professors, instructors, advisors, etc.
- attend a professional conference or lecture series
- do an informational interview
- strike up a conversation when you run an errand
- talk to the person next to you on the bus
How to Contact People and What to Say
In addition to networking with people you know, you can network with complete strangers. It's very common in the world of working professionals, and there are many ways to find people to contact. For specific ideas, see How to Find People to Interview on our Informational Interviews page. That list works just as well for networking as for informational interviewing, as the two are very related!
If you're interested in a specific company or open position, and the job listing says "No phone calls please," respect that.
Networking by phone is often the best method people are more likely to respond to a personal call or a voicemail message than to an email. If you don't hear back in 3 or 4 days, then you might try sending an email. You can also leave a voicemail message that explains how to reach you by phone or email, in case email is the person's preferred contact method. When you do call, tell the person a little about yourself, including:
- Your name
- How you got their name
- Why you're calling and what you want to talk about
- maybe you want to learn more about their career, industry, or company
- maybe you seek information about opportunities in the field
- Ask if they recommend anyone else you should contact
Don't Be Intimidated by Networking
Sometimes students think networking is too difficult, or that it's inappropriate. That's not true. Networking becomes relatively easy after a little effort and time. If you're shy, or if you're uncomfortable contacting people you don't know, that's understandable. But keep in mind the worst response you're likely to get is someone saying they're too busy to talk (or no response). Most of the time, people will be happy to share information about their work, company, or profession.
Benefits of Networking
As a Job Seeker
- Find out about jobs that aren't posted or advertised
- Get insider information about your field and how to pursue work in it
- Get insight from a working professional that will help you determine if this career is a good fit for you
- Make contacts who could lead you to even more valuable contacts
As a Professional Being Contacted
- Connect with someone interested in their field
- Get to know a potential job candidate more personally
- Possibly find a new employee without having to advertise or go through the hiring process