What is Networking?

Have you ever heard a similar exchange between people you know?

DEVIN: "How did you get your job?"
ANGELA: "I landed my position through a friend of a friend."

This scenario is an example of networking. Many people believe networking is all about using other people to get what you want. This is not the case.

Networking is:

  • Establishing relationships and using these relationships to identify advertised and unadvertised job or internship openings
  • Talking with people in your target field to explore your career options, gather information, and understand how to market yourself to potential employers.

If you are like most college students, you may be uncomfortable with this job/internship search strategy at first. You may feel as though you don't know anyone in the work world. You may be hesitant to call people you've never met. You may be unsure of what to say when talking to a networking contact. Once you learn the basics of networking and start making a few contacts, you'll begin to see positive results and feel more comfortable.

Types of Networking

Formal Networks

  • Career fairs
  • Employer panels
  • Professional organizations
  • Networking receptions
  • Conferences
  • Informational interviews
  • NU Alumni
  • Recruiters
  • LinkedIn

Informal Networks

  • Connections through family/friends/faculty
  • Former co-workers
  • Social events
  • Classes/seminars
  • Counselors/advisors

Knowing What You Want

Prior to communicating with people in your network, you should answer a few fundamental job/internship search questions:

  • What industries are you targeting?
  • What positions interest you the most?
  • What are your specific career goals?
  • What skills are you marketing to potential employers?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you effectively communicate your career direction to your contacts, thus assisting them to provide more useful feedback.

Develop Your Introduction
After you have reflected on these questions, be sure to spend sometime preparing a brief introduction about your background, experience, skills, and goals. Practice this introduction or elevator speech so you can deliver it with confidence. You are now ready to compile a list of potential contacts.

Create a List of Potential Contacts
You should also develop a list of people you don't know, but wish to gather information from, including employers you are interested in, professional associations, and alumni contacts.

Making the Connection

You can initiate networking contacts by phone, a letter, e-mail, or in person. One good approach is writing a letter/email and then following up by phone. When calling a contact, be sure to leave a clear and concise message about your connection to the person and what you would like to discuss. If you have left several messages with no response and haven't already sent an email, you may want to send an email outlining your request.

Here are several suggestions to follow when you are communicating with your contact:

  • Ask the contact if it is a convenient time to talk or if you should arrange another time
  • Prepare a list of questions prior to talking and know what information/advice you are seeking
  • Mention how you identified them as a networking resource
  • Do some basic research about the contact's employer and industry
  • Ask if you can send them your resume
  • Gather contact information such as the spelling of their name, mailing address, phone number, and an e-mail address
  • Expand your network by asking the contact to refer you to other potential contacts
  • Ask if you can keep in touch periodically throughout your search

Maintaining Your Network

You have invested time in establishing your networking contacts. Now it is important to maintain those contacts by keeping in touch with these individuals.

  • Always send a thank-you letter after someone has helped you
  • Notify your contacts when you have found a position
  • Send an e-mail to update your network and inquire how they are doing
  • Be helpful to others when they ask to network with you
  • Share opportunities you encounter
  • Remain visible by attending professional networking events

Keys to Successful Networking

Here are some final tips for successful networking:

  • Organize your efforts by tracking who you've contacted, the date of the contact, and the outcome or action step which resulted
  • Consider everyone you meet as a potential networking contact
  • Join a professional organization related to your career interests (e.g. a student interested in marketing might join the American Marketing Association)
  • Be enthusiastic and professional when talking to your networking contacts

You are encouraged to meet with UCS staff to discuss your specific networking efforts.

Additional Networking Resources

LinkedIn – Join this professional networking resource and connect with alumni and employers. Consider joining the Northwestern University Alumni Group as well as the Northwestern University Career Services Group to connect with others for networking purposes.

NU Alumni Association's CareerNet Database - CareerNet is a network of Northwestern graduates who are willing to advise students and alumni on career and employment issues.

Northwestern University Entertainment Alliance (NUEA) - The NU Entertainment Alliance was established to promote, support andeducate NU students and alumni involved in the entertainment industry. NUEA–West (Los Angeles) or NUEA –East (New York).