Career Development Center
West Chester University
What is Networking? (Download the complete Networking handout - PDF)
Networking is a process of building relationships. Successful networking is about building your personal brand, learning about best practices in a career field or industry, and identifying and making meaningful connections with individuals with whom you can engage in mutually beneficial exchanges of information. Ultimately, networking is one of the most effective ways to find a job.
Throughout your career, you want to build relationships so people know who you are and what you have to offer. By networking, you will gather information about career fields or industries that interest you, individuals who are industry leaders, and organizations that may be potential employers.
Even when you have a job, you want to continue networking! Networking is NOT only about finding a job; however, the more connections you have, the better position you will be in for your next career move.
Process of Networking
Establish a Goal – Think about what you want and why you want to make a connection.
Develop a List of Contacts – Be creative in your brainstorming, start with people you know.
Make Initial Contact - Via phone, email, or LinkedIn enables you to plan your first outreach (when you meet someone at an event the initial interaction is different).
Prepare for Meeting – Develop a list of questions, conduct some background research.
Send a Thank-You Note
Tips for Effective Networking
Be clear about your career goals and where you are headed professionally. What drew you to your major. What career options are related to that major?
What is your style? Are you comfortable approaching people over email, as part of a group, one-on-one? Build on your strengths and challenge yourself to try new ways of reaching out to people.
When you attend a meeting or a group,
have a goal of talking to at least three people before the end of the event. Volunteer to read the announcements or take minutes at student group meetings; pursue leadership positions. Attend sponsored events on campus regularly.
Be genuine. Why should someone help you out? What do you have to offer them in return for their time and energy spent on you?
Be respectful of other people's time.
Be sure to send a 'thank you' for referrals or any time a contact invests in you. Ask if it is okay to send a copy of your resume as a follow up to your conversation.
Observe or talk to people who you think are great at networking and think about what skills or qualities they possess. Consider adapting their style to work for you!
Get in the habit of asking for business cards. Make a note on the back to jog your memory about the person or event where you met. Use a professional networking site such as LinkedIn. Use these helpful guides to get started: Tips for Creating a Professional LinkedIn Profile and How to Network Professionally Online.
Don't get discouraged. If someone says
that they don't know of anything pertinent to your current goals or don’t have any current opportunities to share, ask them when might be a better time to contact them to discuss possibilities.
DON'T STOP NETWORKING just because you are not job searching or are happy in your current job or internship! It takes work to maintain relationships and it is easier to do that when you are not asking for help.
Who to Contact – Where to Make Networking Connections
How to Connect – How to Approach People
There are numerous options for connecting with people: phone, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.! What is the best way to reach out? There is no one right answer other than, “It depends.
“Hello. My name is Jane Doe. I am a senior at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and I sent you an email a couple of days ago. I got your name from Professor Jane Smith, who suggested you would be a good person to ask for advice. I was hoping we might get together for a short meeting sometime soon. I would like to speak to you about the advertising field and the typical entry-points into an organization such as yours.” (adapted from The Smart Woman’s Guide to Interviewing and Salary Negotiation, p.44)
Sample Networking / Informational Interview Questions
How did you choose this career field?
What types of experiences are essential to be successful in this field?
What are typical entry-level opportunities in this field?
Describe a typical work week and a typical day.
How would you define the culture of your office? Is that common throughout the industry?
What is the organizational structure of your department/company?
What are the toughest problems you must deal with?
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
What obligations at work affect your personal time?
Tell me about the growth of this career field – where is it going?
What different types of work can you do long term with this background?
How do people find out about job vacancies in this field?
How does this organization compare/differ with its competitors?
What is a reasonable salary range for these positions?
Can you recommend organizations for me to research further?
Is there a person within this organization that I should contact to pursue employment?
May I use your name when I contact them?
Your “Elevator Pitch”
If you were on an elevator and someone that you really wanted to meet stepped in, how would you introduce yourself between floors to make a positive impression and connection? A brief yet informative introduction of you is what is known as an “elevator pitch” (sometimes also referred to as a 30-second commercial). Having an introduction of yourself prepared in advance is particularly useful when attending special events, career fairs, and other group functions.
Start with your name, major, and a brief description of your career/educational interests.
“Hi, I am Jane Smith and I am a junior in marketing. I am most interested in consumer products but I am open to other options at this stage in my education.” (10-15 seconds)
Give an example of something you are involved in – a club, volunteer work, athletics.
“In addition to my classes, I am a resident assistant in Tyson Hall, where I have developed good mediation and conflict resolution skills, as well as plan social and educational programs for my hall residents.” (15-20 seconds)
Be clear on your objective. Networking is about gathering information, so ask other people for their opinions, guidance and coaching.
“I am exploring internships for the spring to gain experience and learn more about marketing. In your career, what has been your exposure to marketing? What is your opinion about avenues for gaining experience or what industries would you recommend I investigate?” (15-25 seconds)
"How to Become a Dynamic Networker" ~ VIDEO ~
Be sure to check our Events Calendar for employer information tables, career fairs, and other special events for great networking opportunities!