Networking is one of the most successful ways to develop your career path. Connecting with those that you admire, know, and trust can open your eyes to trends, perspectives, and opportunities in your desired career field. Some of the ways you can network include:
- Visit faculty members during office hours to discuss potential research interests, opportunities, advice on graduate school, and more.
- Update friends, family, past teachers, and other personal contacts about job search plans and goals.
- Attend events relevant to your career or personal interests and engage the speaker or other attendees in conversation.
- Research potential alumni contacts in your field for informational interviews.
- Create and manage an online portfolio of your work, a blog, LinkedIn profile, professional Twitter account or professional Facebook presence.
Key Networking Rules
- Think long term
Networking relationships should not be one time interactions, but be established and maintained throughout your college years and career.
- The more you give, the more you’ll get
Networking is most effective when it has mutual benefits. For example, you may benefit from networking by getting a better understanding about a particular field of work or learning about a job or internship lead. An alum might benefit from getting an update about what's happening at UVA or to getting a chance to share their opinions about their work or field. Remember, do not just ask for a job - build a relationship.
- Quality over quantity
We have numerous opportunities to meet new people every day in person and online. These people don’t really become a part of our network unless we maintain and expand those relationships.
Who to Network With
This is ultimately up to you and your comfort level. You can network informally among peers and those in your immediate surrounding, but remember that it is acceptable to contact alumni, even ones you do not yet personally know, to request an informational interview for more formal networking. Of course, if you have an intermediary connection, mention their name with permission. Here are some online resources to find contacts:
LinkedIn.com is another useful database for career exploration and making career connections. The University of Virginia Alumni, Students and Friends Group on LinkedIn is another resource for finding out where UVA alums ended up after graduation and beyond. You can also use the “Find Alumni” option (under the “Connections” tab), and even narrow by major.
Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program provides students and their alumni mentors a structured means of initiating a professional relationship to discuss career interests and topics of professional preparation. Together, they develop goals for their regular meetings, during which the alumni mentors offer insights about their own undergraduate experiences, career progression and current work which supports mentees in navigating their own chosen career paths.
The Career Center can also provide you with ample opportunities for networking, including our Career Fairs, employer information sessions, and workshops.
- Build your base of contacts
Create a list of 10-30 people you may know. You may be surprised at how many useful contacts you already have! Be sure to list their professions as well. This may include: Friends; Family; Current and former schoolmates (fraternity, sorority, athletes, classmates); Professors, teaching assistants, school administrators, coaches; Past and current coworkers; People from your religious organization; Neighbors; Relevant career societies you might want to join that provide information about careers that are meaningful to you (e.g., Public Relations Student Society of America, National Society of Hispanic MBAs).
- Conduct industry research
Use CareerShift, Vault, Linkedin, and the community pages to find out information about the industry you’re interested in.
- Update your personal branding materials and social networking profiles.
One in three employers reject candidates based on what they find on their personal social media sites—so do not post anything online that you would not be okay with a potential employer seeing.
- Contact Your Network
Talk about yourself and your goals – the more you talk about your skills and interests, what you have done, what you would like to do and where you’d like to do it, the more likely people will begin to see links between themselves and you. They will begin to share information about their own backgrounds and who they know and where they have been.
Ask questions! Most people are flattered if you ask questions about what they do and how they got there, and if you ask for their opinions and advice.
- Follow up and continue the relationship.
Make sure to continue communicating so the experience is not limited to a one-time conversation, but instead grows into an established contact.