What is Networking?
Networking is the process of establishing relationships with people, such as peers and alumni, who will become your community of colleagues and friends as you move through your career. Networking is not about asking for preferential treatment, nor is it simply an exchange of information and contacts. Rather, it is a common way to connect with professionals who can teach you about their jobs and organizations (and, in turn, learn from you).
When networking, you should not overtly ask for employment. If you say, “Do you have a job for me?” the answer is likely to be “no,” and then the conversation is over. If you meet a networking contact who offers to recommend you for or refer you to a job, that is a bonus. However, it is not an expectation that you should impose on a professional contact.
Why Should I Network?
Networking can be key to securing employment in the United States, and it should be a priority as you explore career options and apply for jobs. Networking activities could result in the following:
- Improved conversation skills
- Insider tips that help you stay current in your field
- Job search advice specific to your field
- A new friend or professional ally
- Names of additional people to contact, which may result in follow-up interviews
- An offer of employment
How Do I Develop My Network?
Chances are that you already know more people than you realize. Your network may include the following:
- Family, friends, roommates, and significant others
- School classmates, faculty, staff, and alumni
- Past and present co-workers
- Neighbors, clubmates, and members of associations or religious communities
- Acquaintances that you meet at the gym, cafes, and neighborhood stores
- Connections on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
Opportunities to network can arise at any time and place. Never underestimate an opportunity to make a connection. This does not mean that networking comes easily to everyone, of course. If you are an introvert who at times struggles to comfortably interact with others, try building professional connections via informational interviews. You can leverage LinkedIn and UChicago’s alumni network to identify professionals who you would like to interview. And do not forget to order UChicago business cards–they are a handy way to share your contact information when you meet someone new.
Do you have additional questions about networking? Meet with a career advisor to create a successful outreach strategy. Would you like to practice your elevator speech or self introduction? Book an appointment with a career advisor.