Lumen Learning and Linda Bruce Hill

“Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.”

– Paul J. Meyer

In the context of career development, networking is the process by which people build relationships with one another for the purpose of helping one another achieve professional goals.

When you “network,” you exchange information.

  • You may share business cards, résumés, cover letters, job-seeking strategies, leads about open jobs, information about companies and organizations, and information about a specific field.
  • You might also share information about meet-up groups, conferences, special events, technology tools, and social media.
  • You might also solicit job “headhunters,” career counselors, career centers, career coaches, an alumni association, family members, friends, acquaintances, and vendors.

Networking can occur anywhere and at any time. In fact, your network expands with each new relationship you establish. And the networking strategies you can employ are nearly limitless. With imagination and ingenuity, your networking can be highly successful.

A series of stick figures connected by dotted lines.
A series of stick figures connected by dotted lines.

Strategies for Networking

We live in a social world. Almost everywhere you go and anything you do professionally involves connecting with people. It stands to reason that finding a new job and advancing your career entails building relationships with these people. Truly, the most effective way to find a new job is to network, network, and network some more.

Once you acknowledge the value of networking, the challenge is figuring out how to do it. What is your first step? Whom do you contact? What do you say? How long will it take? Where do you concentrate efforts? How do you know if your investments will pay off?

University of New Hampshire Career Services recommends the following strategies for working adult students:

  1. Create an action plan (you will be doing it as part of this class) and use it to think through your career goals and the steps you need to take to meet them.
  2. Think of your network holistically.  You probably know people who can help.   Identify those you know personally, professionally and through the University of New Hampshire.  Let the people in your network know what you are trying to achieve.
  3. Attend as many events as you can.   Put yourself into new situations and become comfortable talking about your career goals and interests.
  4. Create a great LinkedIn profile!  Employers are using LinkedIn to find and screen candidates. If you don’t have a stellar LinkedIn profile, it will negatively affect your ability to find a job.  Not having a professional LinkedIn profile presents you as someone who is unable to keep pace with the quickly changing technological expectations of the work world.  Learn more about LinkedIn by clicking the link below use these tips to create or update your own profile. You will learn more about this in Chapter 4.

Strategies at College

  • Get to know your professors: Communicating with instructors is a valuable way to learn about a career and also get letters of reference if and when needed for a job. When you learn in a virtual environment, it is important to be communicative to build relationships and be memorable.  Your instructor can’t provide you with an academic reference if they don’t remember you.  Connecting with your instructors might provide you with leads on job openings, internships, or research possibilities. Get to know your instructors and connect with or follow them on LinkedIn. They are a valuable part of your network.
  • Network with University of New Hampshire alumni:  Attend alumni events to find people working in your desired field.  Search for UNH alums on LinkedIn – they might be willing to do an informational interview or help you in some other way.  It is easier to network with people that you share something with.
  • Network with your learning colleagues: Classmates are an excellent source of information and connections, especially at the University of New Hampshire. Many of them may already be working in your desired field.  Remember to connect with them on LinkedIn and request to join University of New Hampshire LinkedIn groups related to your major and area of career interest.  Build your professional and academic connections in LinkedIn as you work on your degree.

Strategies at Work

  • Join professional organizations and follow them on LinkedIn: You can meet many influential people at local and national meetings and events of professional and volunteer organizations. Learn about these organizations. See if they have membership discounts for students, or student chapters. Once you are a member, you may have access to membership lists, which can give you prospective access to many new people to network with. Following professional organizations on LinkedIn allows you to see their content and keep abreast of emerging trends and best practices.
  • Volunteer: Volunteering is an excellent way to meet new people who can help you develop your career, even if the organization you are volunteering with is not in your field. Just by working alongside others and working toward common goals, you build relationships that may later serve you in unforeseen and helpful ways.
  • Get an internship: Many organizations offer internship positions to college students. Some of these positions are paid, but often they are not. Paid or not, you gain experience relevant to your career, and you potentially make many new contacts.
  • Get a part-time job: Working full-time may be your ultimate goal, but you may want to fill in some cracks or crevices by working in a part-time job. Invariably you will meet people who can feasibly help with your networking goals. And you can gain good experience along the way, which can also be noted on your résumé. Talk to Career Services to learn more about the possibilities.
  • Join a job club: Your career interests may be shared by many others who have organized a club, which can be online or in person. If you don’t find an existing club, consider starting one.
  • Attend networking events: There are innumerable professional networking events taking place around the world and also online. Find them listed in magazines, community calendars, newspapers, journals, and at the websites of companies, organizations, and associations.
  • Conduct informational interviews: You may initiate contact with people in your chosen field who can tell you about their experiences of entering the field and thriving in it. Many websites have guidance on how to plan and conduct these interviews.

Strategies at Home and Beyond

  • Get comfortable and participate in online social media: An explosion of career opportunity awaits you with social media, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more. You will find an extensive list of suggested sites at CareerOneStop. Keep your communication ultra-professional at these sites. Peruse magazine articles, and if you find one that’s relevant to your field and it contains names of professionals, you can reach out to them to learn more and get job leads. Realize that social media is public and posting pictures of yourself at parties or commenting in an unbecoming way could cost you an opportunity.
  • Ask family members and friends, coworkers, and acquaintances for referrals: Do they know others who might help you? You can start with the question “Who else should I be talking to?”
  • Use business cards or networking cards: A printed business card can be an essential tool to help your contacts remember you. Creativity can help in this regard, too. Students often design cards themselves and either hand print them or print them on a home printer.

Sources for Developing Professional Networks

The bottom line with developing professional networks is to cull information from as many sources as possible and use that information in creative ways to advance your career opportunities. The strategies listed in the section above provide you with a comprehensive set of suggestions. Below is a summary of sources you can use to network your way to career success:

  • Meet-up groups
  • Conferences
  • Special events
  • Technology tools
  • Social media
  • Career centers
  • Alumni associations
  • Professional organizations
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Internships
  • Part-time job
  • Job club
  • Networking events
  • Magazine articles
  • websites
  • Career coaches
  • Headhunters
  • Career counselors
  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Coworkers
  • Vendors
  • College professors
  • Advisers
  • Classmates
  • Administrators
  • Coaches
  • Guest speakers

Licenses and Attributions:

CC licensed content, Original:

CC licensed content, Shared previously:

  • Image of 3D Social Networking. Authored by: Chris Potter. Located at: License: CC BY: Attribution.
  • Networking. Authored by: Ronda Dorsey Neugebauer. Provided by: Chadron State College. Project: Kaleidoscope Open Course Initiative. License: CC BY: Attribution. Edited by Jan Coville


Adaptions: Added text into Strategies at College


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Career Decision Making for Adults (v3) Copyright © by Lumen Learning and Linda Bruce Hill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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