Careers ServiceNetworking

What is networking?

The idea of networking is to approach your own existing contacts, or contacts of people you know, for help and advice. Every time you make a new contact you then tap into their network and get introductions to a new range of contacts. Through this method, you build up a large list of people who can help you.

The ability to network is one of the most important skills you can develop. It's one that will have lifetime benefits.

When you are job seeking, networking can help you find out about industries and organisations you are interested in. This knowledge can also increase your choices of success during the recruitment process.

You don't have to have friends in high places to be able to network. You can learn to do this even if you think you have no useful contacts at all.

Further information

Discover how to use social media in your job search:

Start with our guide to getting started with LinkedIn

Some other useful resources

Helping you to see what a job is really like

Questioning someone about the job they do should give you a better idea of what is involved. And whether you would like this work.

Your contact may also be able to organise some work shadowing (i.e. unpaid work observation) for you. It might also be possible to talk with people in more senior positions to get an idea of career progression. Work shadowing might also lead to work experience or even a job.

Helping you in preparing to look for work

You can get your contacts to:

  • outline the range of jobs within their field and the level of competition for them
  • look through your CV suggesting improvements
  • advise you on other skills or experience that you need
  • recommend other sources of information and advice, including their own contacts

Helping you to research firms you are applying to

Contacts can be invaluable in giving you insight into the activities, culture and history of their company.

Helping you to find a job

Your contacts may be able to:

  • tell you which papers and agencies to use for vacancies
  • give ideas of firms to apply to
  • let you know about openings within their firm

When you first make contact, ask for information and advice - NOT for a job.

Start with contacts you already have

You may not realise it, but it's likely you already belong to many valuable networks. Obvious examples are:

  • your family, friends, and neighbours
  • the university, school, and colleges you have attended
  • clubs and societies that you've belonged to
  • places that you have worked
  • your parents' or partner's network of friends

The contacts that will be easiest to make and most helpful to you will already have some links with you. Start your list here.

Develop contacts from scratch

There are many other people with no connection to you at all who may be able to offer you support.

Professional Bodies are a good starting point. They often employ information officers and training advisers who can provide you with useful information. They may publish careers information and a directory of members. They may also have a local branch that you can join or a network of regional advisers. For help in identifying appropriate bodies, use the Directory of the Professions. Or look at our I want to work in pages. These list professional bodies for each area of employment.

Courses and events are a good way of meeting people who could give you advice. Examples include:

  • graduate recruitment fairs
  • careers information fairs
  • workshops led by employers
  • specialist recruitment fairs for specific industries
  • trade fairs
  • conferences and short courses

Other sources of contacts

If you're a creative person you'll be able to think up lots of other ways of making contacts. Here are two methods that have been used successfully:

  • identify adverts for jobs you would like to aim for (but don't feel currently qualified for) - contact the employer for advice on how to get into this type of work
  • identify experts on your chosen career through articles they have written or talks they've given - contact them for advice

To be successful, you'll need to plan your networking campaign at every stage of the process. And keep good records of all that you've done.

Set yourself objectives for your networking

Before you start contacting people for help, decide what you want to get out of your networking campaign.

Research each contact, their role, and their organisation, before making an approach

You'll impress a contact more at the first meeting if you have some relevant knowledge. If you've found out about a contact through someone you know, you should be able to get some background information on the individual. You will be able to do some preliminary research on the career area and company. You will be able to do some preliminary research on the career area and company by looking at their website or using the Prospects company directory.

Prepare a list of questions for each discussion

We have suggested some questions to start with. It would help if you also tried to think of some questions of your own.

This article suggests 7 questions to ask at informational interviews.

Think about how to approach each of your contacts

You'll have to find a method of approaching contacts that work for you and adapt this to each situation. Some points to consider:

  • a particular method of approach may be acceptable to one contact yet not to another
  • the better you know someone, the more informal you can be in your approach to them
  • the better your communication skills the more success you will have with direct approaches
  • some contacts may respond better to a telephone call than a letter or email - however, it's possible to combine a written approach with a telephone approach. For example, you can send each contact a copy of your Curriculum Vitae (CV) to introduce yourself. Explain what help and advice you are looking for, and followed up with a phone call
  • before you telephone a contact, write down what you will say. Make sure to check that it is a convenient time. If it's not, make an arrangement to call back
  • after each discussion, note any action points, and be sure to follow them up
  • remember to write to each contact to thank them for their help - you never know when you might come across them again so you want to have made a good impression

Nobody likes to be bothered by nuisance calls or junk mail. Here are some tips to avoid annoying your contacts:

  • start with contacts who have a fairly direct link to you - they're more likely to want to help
  • only approach people whose name you have
  • explain how you got the contact and outline the help you need
  • always ask initially for 'help and advice' and NOT a job
  • do not be too pushy but you will need a bit of confidence
  • read this blog from Warwick Careers Service

Networking involves meeting with people that you know something about. That should mean personal safety is not an issue. But you should try to get a personal introduction to each new contact you make. If you are meeting with a stranger then to protect yourself you should:

  • meet in a public place
  • tell someone where you are going and with whom
  • avoid getting into a car
  • walk away from any situation that makes you uncomfortable