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Networking Communication

Learn About Employers and Industries

To have a goal-driven approach to networking, you need an idea of the spaces you are exploring. Consider developing a list of companies/organizations/institutions who do work you are interested in. You can then follow companies of interest, professionals, and hashtags on LinkedIn to personalize your feed. This will help you learn about events and trends, stay updated on relevant news, and find potential connections and career opportunities.


By following relevant topics, individuals, and companies, your profile may be viewed more favorably by recruiters from corresponding organizations.

When you find an employer of interest, look at the “Similar Pages” category. This provides you with a list of similar organizations you might want to consider in your search. You can also learn about employers and industries by:

  • Reading articles
  • Watching webinars
  • Taking advantage of courses

Make Connections

Finding Connections

While it is increasingly commonplace for professionals to include their LinkedIn contact information on their personal websites and in their email signatures and professional presentations, you can also use other contact information like an email address or phone number to find a known contact.


Northwestern Alumni groups on LinkedIn provide access to a database of more than 150,000 alumni. You can filter these alumni by location, industry, and major. If you find an alum you wish to connect with, you can look up their email address in the Our Northwestern alumni database or send a connection request.


Find active groups that are relevant to your interests and goals, including Northwestern groups (such as Northwestern University Alumni) and professional groups (such as region-specific professional organizations and marketing, media, and advertising professionals). You can send a message to someone in the same group even if you are not connected.

Communicating Effectively to Cultivate Relationships

While many professionals and alumni are willing to connect with students, even if you have not met face-to-face, your chances of connecting increase if you express a genuine interest and intention. This should be brief and to the point, careful to articulate the reason for your interest in connecting. Make it about the person you are seeking to connect with and less about yourself.

LinkedIn Connection Invites

Consider also how you are connecting with someone—is it in a LinkedIn message? Is it through an email? Always assume someone is going to be reading the communication quickly (and likely on their phone!). Here are four examples of how to draw a connection to why you are contacting a specific individual via a LinkedIn connection invitation:

  1. Hi ____, I am finishing my PhD at Northwestern in the spring. After graduation I hope to move into a data science role in San Francisco. I came across your profile and would love to connect.
  2. Hello Khadeejah, I am a NU student looking to learn more about careers in marketing and would love to add you to my network.
  3. Marco, It was so nice meeting you at the Northwestern University info session yesterday. I would like to add you to my network so we can stay connected.
  4. Jordan, You mentioned at the NU career panel today that you were open to students connecting. I appreciated what you had to share about finding your path to your current role and would love to stay in touch.

Continuing the Conversation

Once you have connected with a new contact, they might even reply. What now? It would be unusual, but not unheard of, for your new contact to reciprocate interest in you. You can carry on the conversation over LinkedIn or ask to have a live conversation in the form of an informational interview.

Sending Informational Interview Invitations via Email

The first thing to consider when reaching out to someone new via email is the subject line. Put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving your communication. How can you set expectation from the start? Consider the following subject lines:

  • Opportunities with Apple
  • Advice for Northwestern PhD Student Interested in Instructional Design

The first invites a transaction only. If the recipient does not know of any openings or is uncomfortable engaging in that way with someone they are unfamiliar with, it is more than likely the email will go ignored.

The second subject line, however, is focused on information and expectation setting. Now consider a first vs. second draft of copy for each.

First draft:

I am a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University studying the transmigrational movements of artisans across Europe in the 17th century—focusing on how the written word and visual representations of concepts such as harmony and rebellion gained prominence in poetic form. I found your profile on LinkedIn and see that you work at Apple in Learning Design. I am very interested in learning more about the company and was wondering whether you could give me some insight into your career field, and some advice on my résumé if I were interested in a role in industry. Would you be able to speak with me in the next few weeks?

Second draft:

I was exploring instructional design roles online and found your profile on LinkedIn. We both know Kate Flom Derrik from the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning, and she encouraged me to reach out to you. I have been exploring the different roles in education tech, and while I am learning a lot about this field from my online research, I would love to be able to understand more about the role from people established in the field. Your career path is extremely interesting, and I would value the opportunity to hear more about some of the experiences you have had with Apple. Would it be OK if I reached out by email with a couple of quick questions about your current position? Or could we perhaps find 15-20 minutes to connect on the phone?


Note that the first draft has no link to the person being contacted. The sender’s subject matter expertise is at the forefront, which does not help bridge a connection to why they are contacting that specific individual. It also puts undue pressure on the recipient. No need to send an application document before you have had a chance to build rapport.

The second draft, however, focuses instead of what draws the sender to the recipient. It is always ok to name drop when you have a contact in common! But it is also alright to send a cold connection absent a contact in common. While it may come up in conversation that the sender is currently actively looking for opportunities, the expectation set in this message needs to focus on advice, insight, and by doing so, will open the door for longer relationship development.

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