Students asking questions in a lecture hall to three guest speakers.

In-Person and Online Networking

While statistics show that 60-80% of job seekers find their next position through networking and the “hidden or informal job market,” most job seekers continue to focus their search on the formal job market – postings, want ads or recruiting services.

What is networking? It’s asking someone you know for specific information to help you solve a problem. And often, if that person doesn’t know the answer, they refer you to someone they know who might be able to help. Now your network has expanded.

In your job search, networking is:

  • Talking to people who know you, are familiar with what you want to do, and can provide information to help you progress toward your goal.
  • Connecting with people who are employed in your field of interest and can share inside information on what the job field is really like.
  • Contacting individuals within organizations for which you believe you’d like to work and learning about the culture and hiring process.  
  • Getting the inside track on a job that hasn’t yet been advertised.

Steps to Effective Networking

Develop a personal marketing plan

You need to be able to articulate to your network what skills you have and how and where you want to use them.  Identify your skills, interests and goals. The Telling Your Story workbook will help you finalize your elevator speech for prospective employers.

  • Online social networking should be a piece of your overall marketing strategy.
  • Make sure your resume is current and targeted to your goals.  Give people in your network a copy so they have a ready reference to your background and abilities when they talk to their contacts.

Do your research

Investigate the positions, industries and organizations that interest you. Try to find out as much as you can for several reasons:

  1. The information gained may help you narrow down your list and focus your efforts.
  2. By being knowledgeable, you prove to people you meet that this is important to you.
  3. Finally, you bring value to your network by sharing information about current industry trends and issues that you have uncovered.

Make a list of who you know

We all have a larger network than we think. Consider:

  • Your parents and your friends’ parents
  • Family – grandparents, aunts/uncles, brothers/sisters, cousins
  • Friends of your parents
  • Neighbors
  • Faculty (current and former)
  • Miami alumni
  • Clergy
  • Your doctor and dentist
  • Former employers and co-workers
  • Members of organizations you belong to – social and professional
  • Anyone you know, who when contacted, recognizes you

Begin by writing these names down. If you get stuck, ask those in your inner circle to help jog your memory.

Make a list of people you’d like to meet

Once you’ve listed those you already know, start working on a list of those you’d like to know. These are the people in a particular position or employed by a certain organization that interests you. Having this list helps you focus when contacting your network. It’s very possible that someone in your network has just the contact you need.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the leading professional network on the Web. Your LinkedIn profile is an important supplement to your resume. Having a LinkedIn account and a complete LinkedIn profile and headshot allows you to connect with classmates, alumni, faculty/staff, and industry professionals for networking purposes, and to find new opportunities for internships and full-time positions.

Make contact with those on your list and those to whom you’ve been referred

If you’ve received referrals, make sure you contact these people — someone who knows you and what you’re looking for thought they would be a good connection for you. Solicit additional names from these new contacts in order to continue to expand your network.

There are a number of ways to make contact, depending on how well you know the person. If this is someone you speak with regularly, a phone call is all that’s needed. However, an introduction letter helps smooth the way before phoning someone you don’t know well, or were referred to. (Examples of an introduction letter and phone script can be found in our Job-Search Strategies Career Development Series guide.)

Options for making contact online include:

  • e-mail
  • check to see if the prospective contact has a blog which allows comments
  • explore Twitter or Facebook for the prospective contact

Conduct informational interviews

Informational interviews are a great way to structure your time with someone to ensure you have the opportunity to ask the questions most important to you. These are short appointments for gathering information from someone with experience. Informational interviews should not be confused with job interviews (a more detailed explanation of informational interviewing as well as sample questions can be found in our Job Search Strategies Guide).

Attend networking functions

Continue to build your network by attending professional organization meetings and conferences, career fairs, Chamber of Commerce functions, and other events that put you in contact with those who may be able to provide information. Meetup is a searchable database of meetup opportunities, organized by location, in a wide range of personal and professional interests areas, and can be a valuable tool for networking and internship and job search purposes.

Follow up

Once you’ve met with your contacts, be sure to follow up as agreed. Chances are you were given new ideas and information which require more research. Networking is an ongoing process.

  • don’t neglect to follow up on leads you were given
  • be certain to update your network on the progress you’ve made as a result of the information they’ve provided.  
  • don’t forget to say “thank you”. Sending a thank-you note to everyone you speak with goes a long way in showing appreciation and maintaining your network.

Keep a contact log

Make sure to keep track of who you talk with, when you spoke, what you discussed, and what the next steps will be.  As your network grows, this tool will be invaluable.