Networking is a great way to gain information and advice about your chosen career field, learn about potential opportunities, inform people about your interests and create opportunities for yourself. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 80% of jobs are now found through networking. The best jobs often go to people who network and sometimes, jobs are created for those people.
Basic networks are broken down into four categories:
It’s possible that individuals in your network may fall into multiple categories. Try to develop a blend of people who you can turn to for advice, connections, ideas and recommendations. Having problems thinking of where to start? Consider these groups:
Each represents a potential source for networking. Talk to those you know and tell them about your goals. They may be able to introduce you to someone new who can help.
Not sure what to say or how to prepare for a networking event? Check out our Electronic Networking Guide for some pointers.
Networking happens everywhere and takes many shapes and forms. How you network is largely a personal decision based on your level of comfort.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool for developing new professional connections and expanding your network. Understanding how to network properly will help you develop a strategy for making new connections and building your network.
Creating a good profile provides a foundation for getting the most out of LinkedIn. Additionally, LinkedIn groups are an excellent way to network and learn more about a specific industry. Nearly every industry has one, if not several, groups associated with it. LinkedIn Higher Education offers fantastic tools to help you make the most of this amazing resource.
Nearly every industry or job function has a related professional association. Professional associations are an extremely underutilized source of networking. If you aren’t a member of a professional organization, consider joining one. There are hundreds of them with chapters around the country. Attend meetings, comment on articles posted on the organization’s website, or take advantage of established networking programs.
Another great way to start building connections and leadership skills is through student organizations related to your field of interest. Having significant involvement and experiences in a few organizations is preferred over shallow experiences in a multitude of organizations. Explore all of the registered student organizations at VCU on RamsConnect to find a match.
Good mentors can make a huge difference in your professional success. Mentors have the knowledge and experience to help you develop and advance your career and can provide advice and guidance when you need it most. Mentors are often a boss, a professor or someone you know through a professional organization. However, the right mentor may be someone you have not yet met. Keep in mind that your mentors don’t need to be the most senior people you can find, they just need to have the ability and desire to help you succeed.
Consider these factors when searching for a mentor:
VCU Link is the university's online community for connecting students, alumni and friends of the university for career advice, industry contacts and meaningful professional relationships.
An informational interview is a professional development tool you can use to learn more about a particular career. In this type of interview, you direct the questions to a person of your choice who is doing work in a field or industry that interests you.
Informational interviews allow you to learn from another person’s career path, discover how they gained experience in the field, and learn the strategies and advice they have for someone entering the field today.
Locating people to interview
Arranging the informational interview
Sample email or phone script for requesting an informational interview
Hello Ms. Havoc,
I am Roberto Ram and a junior at VCU studying -------.
My career goal is to work as a ----------------- after graduation. I am learning from others as I prepare to enter the field. I am seeking to gain insight from your experience that may help me take advantage of opportunities with my coursework, internships and professional associations. Would you have 20-30 minutes to meet with me at your convenience? My best dates and times over the next weeks are:
Hello Mr. Havoc,
I am Rita Ram and a junior at VCU studying ---------. I am exploring careers in --------- and gathering information on the industry and career paths from people currently working in the field. By talking with you about your career, I hope to further understand how others developed their talents, interests and skills. Would you have 20-30 minutes to meet with me at your convenience? My best dates and times over the next weeks are:
Questions about their career story
Questions about their preparation for their career path
Questions about their current work
Questions about their organization
Questions about the industry
Questions about the field’s professional identity
If you receive a contact or two, the person is opening up their professional network. Please respect and acknowledge that they trust you will be professional as you proceed with this network information. Secure the correct spelling of the contact(s), title, company and email.
Closing and follow-up
At the close of the interview, thank them for their time. Exchange business cards.
Also, send a thank you via email and in a personal handwritten note. In the thank you email, let them know you found their guidance very useful and that you will keep them informed as you contact others and progress through the informational interview process.