Networking is all about discovering and utilizing connections between people and tapping into your circle of friends, family, professors, previous employers and Saint Martin's Alumni.

Why is networking important?

Over 80% of jobs are not posted online and are obtained through networking. Networking plays a critical role in 70% of jobs across the country.

Student networking with older person

Direct contact with people, preferably face-to-face, is one of the most effective ways to learn about career fields and discover internship and job opportunities. As you begin networking as part of your job or internship search make sure you set specific, attainable goals for yourself about what you want to accomplish.

Step-by-step guide to networking

Step one: find contacts

One of the best ways to find networking contacts is through LinkedIn. Commonly known as the “professional Facebook”, LinkedIn is a great resource to network, research companies of interest, locate informational interview contacts, and improve your personal brand.

LinkedIn logo

This free site opens the door to over 70 million professionals around the globe, representing 150 industries. Create an account today and begin expanding your professional network. To make the most of your LinkedIn experience, be sure to join the Saint Martin's Alumni group!

Download our LinkedIn handout »

Use LinkedIn Jobs to harness the power of your network to uncover insights such as who you know at a company, providing you an edge in your job search. LinkedIn Salary allows students to understand their earning potential and make an educated decision based off accurate salary data. LinkedIn ProFinder is a freelance platform to connect freelancers with real business projects. Be sure to check out their Internship search, too!

Student in conversation with donors

Friends and family

Another great way to make networking contacts is through your friends and family. Talk to your parents, professors, high school teachers, and Saint Martin's friends about what career paths interest you. Ask them to help you make connections with people who could tell you more about the careers that interest you.

As you search for networking contacts, keep these helpful tips in mind:

  • Share information, ideas, resources, and contacts with others. Networking is a two way process.
  • Know basic information about careers that interest you. Think of everyone you meet as a networking contact.
  • Keep a well documented record of your contacts – how, when, details of the conversation and any follow up necessary – with our networking tracking tool.

Step two: connect with contacts

Once you’ve found a networking contact, you need to reach out to them to schedule an informational interview. Here is a sample message you could use when it’s time to connect with a networking contact. Make sure you include a specific question or two in the email so the contact understands what you want to discuss as well as your contact information.

  • Sample email or LinkedIn message

    Subject:
    SMU Student Seeking Information

    Dear Ms. Jones:

    I found your name through the Saint Martin's Alumni group on LinkedIn. As a senior at Saint Martin's, I am majoring in psychology with a minor in English. After graduation I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in counseling and working with children with behavioral problems and families in transition. I see from your profile that this is your specialty area. Would you be open to letting me email, call, or meet you in person so that I can learn more about your career path? Like you, I am currently in Lacey and would be available to meet at your earliest convenience. I am free any day next week 2-5 p.m.

    I appreciate your consideration of my request for advice, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Natalie Thomas
    336.555.5555

Step three: request an informational interview

The best way to learn about a career is to talk to someone who’s actually in it every day! After you’ve found connections from your friends, family, and LinkedIn contact them to schedule a brief face-to-face or phone informational interview.

Student doing informational interview

The purpose of an informational interview is to learn more about an industry or career field, not to ask for an internship or job. When you call to schedule the informational interview tell your contact about your interest in their field and your curiosity to learn more. Once the interview is scheduled you will need to prepare insightful questions to ask your contact as well as explanations about why you’re interested in this field.

You can use this list of questions to help you begin but make sure you also research the company and prepare questions specific to their work.

Sample informational interview questions »

Make sure you can clearly highlight why you want to take this career path and what strengths you have to contribute to that specific line of work. Remember, you’re not trying to get a job, just trying to better understand the field while building your professional network and practicing your interview skills.

In preparation for your informational interview, make sure you:

  • Know your skills, interests, qualifications, and goals and can articulate them.
  • Have a 1 – 2 minute pitch prepared that succinctly describes your background and what your goals are. If you need help developing your elevator speech, please contact our office.
  • Know what it is you want to take away from the conversation. Be polite, professional, and thankful.
  • Send thank you notes after meetings or conversations. Keep in touch.
  • After being introduced to new people, follow-up with a short communication such as an e-mail or a phone call.
  • As you begin to reach out to your network, consider using our networking tracking tool to help you keep all of your opportunities and contacts in order.

Adapted from Wake Forest University's Office of Career and Professional Development