The Ultimate Guide to College Networking: 40 University Career Office Directors Share Their Best Tips for Networking

college networking, career networking tips, job networking

[Note: This Ultimate Guide to College Networking took us over 100 hours to produce and involved surveying dozens of University Career Office Directors. The final guide is over 10,000 words, or equivalent to a short book. There are some real gems below so we highly recommend taking the time to read through it.]

How do you get a job?

Networking. Connections. Hookups.  

It’s about who you know, right?

Without question, most people will say the way to land a job and build a career is by making connections.

That’s why #1 most important thing you can do is to build relationships proactively and strategically.

So how do you do it – the right way?

To get to the bottom of this question, I reached out and interviewed over ____ Career Office Directors at different colleges and asked them to share their top networking tips.

Here they are…


Adi Clerman, Columbia University

Associate Director, Office of Career Services, Mailman School of Public Health

Top networking tips for students: Do your best to make networking and professional development a regular and healthy habit.  Read articles, and share articles. Attend events and bring other people to events, make relevant introductions.  

Networking doesn’t have to be stuffy. If a new connection mentioned that they like travel, and an interesting travel event or article comes across your desk, share it!  Not only does that make you memorable, it makes you authentic.

When requesting to connect on Linkedin, ALWAYS add a personalized note. It makes you more authentic and adds more context and authenticity to the request.

Keep in touch to the best of your ability.  It’s no fun to hear from someone just when they need something, right?  Do your best to not be that person.

Show up.  That’s 90% of the battle.  If there is an event and you’ve RSVP’d, Go. “ Linkedin.  Get very comfortable with it. It’s an amazing tool not just for people to search for you but for you to connect with others, learn about organizations, apply for jobs, learn about professional opportunities and read relevant industry-specific articles.  

Learn More About the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University


Addye Buckley-Burnell, Auburn University

Assistant Director of Career Development

Top networking tips for students:

-You don’t have to be at a networking event to be networking. Always be meeting people.

-When someone helps you, always find a way to repay a favor.

– Please send thank you cards to anyone who helps you. This helps show appreciation and they will be more likely to help you in the future.

– Always carry job search business cards with your key points to give to people you may meet when out. It looks more professional and more convenient than carrying resumes.

-Maintain a clean online image; you will be Googled and judged by those you meet.

-Always be expanding your network by asking if people know anyone else who could help.

– Reach out to alumni or professionals in field and conduct informational interviews. You will learn good information and this will often land in an opportunity.

– Contact those in high level positions because you will not be seen as a threat and they will be more likely to help you.

– Let the other person do the talking and ask for advice instead of a job. People are more likely to be willing to give advice than to help you land a job. “

What tool every student should use: of course, but I also really love CareerShift

Learn More about the Auburn Career Office and Addye Buckley-Burnell

Samantha Burney, Carnegie Mellon University

Assistant Director, Career Services

Networking with a professional in your industry is beneficial for everyone and you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.  As long as they treat is as a natural conversation and getting to know someone they are in great shape!

What tool every student should use: I think one resource that benefits all students regardless of their degree title is LinkedIn. You can find professionals, alumni and employers in your field or industry of interest.

Learn more about Carnegie Mellon

Peter Ostrander, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Assistant Director of Career Development

I think that the number one networking tip for students is to attend career fairs and follow through with employers afterwards. We know that 20% of students follow through with employers after their career fair visit. Employers are handing out huge numbers of business cards and collecting resumes at these events and they are very busy.

That extra follow through can help students, whether it be on LinkedIn or email, get their foot in the door at a company because it demonstrates added interest and commitment. Career fairs are excellent ways to network because unlike networking nights, everyone is there for a purpose – to find a job/internship.

Some of the pressure is taken off to strike up a conversation, especially if a student has done research on a company beforehand and can bring that to the table in discussion to again indicate interest when talking to an employer.

Do Your Research

Always do research on who you are talking to before you reach out because it can demonstrate interest (in their job, not their personal life) and be ready to talk about what interests them in their job and if you want you can also keep the conversation on them so there is that engagement, but you cannot do that without also knowledge about their  company.

What tool every student should use: Jobscan

Learn More About Edinboro University of Pennsylvania


Becca Shelton, University of Richmond

Assistant Director, Office of Alumni and Career Services

#1 – Start with your own circles

Feeling awkward about cold calling/emailing professionals? Start by asking for referrals by those in your professional/family/friend circles.

#2 – Set small goals

A journey starts with a single step, right? Start with easy goals, such as one informational interview to get comfortable. Or, collect two business cards at the next function you attend and follow-up with those contacts.

#3 – Define (best you can) your professional aspirations and be comfortable telling ‘your story’

No matter how you interact with other professionals (casual, formal) they’re interested in where you came from and where you want to go. Some ask directly, and some don’t – but be ready to tell your story. Articulating this part of yourself also helps increase your own confidence, so it’s a great exercise.

Having trouble? Seek out conversations with those close to you, or career services professionals from your institution. No idea what you want to do? That’s fine, and be honest that you are still exploring.

#4 – Add value where you can

All relationships (professional and person) are give and take. With those you meet, how can you add value to their work/experiences/life? Do you have a skill or passion that you can help them with? IT, social media, etc. – do they need help with a side project?

Do they have young children who you can tutor, babysit? Try and find ways to help them, also, and they’re much more likely to assist you in the future.

(Further reading: Check out our interview with Adam Grant, author of Give and Take)

#5 – Remember that everyone is human

We’re all trying to make it in this world and hoping those around us can help when we need it. But, don’t approach your networking from a transactional perspective. Yes, you want to help others so that they’ll help you, but if you’re not in it for the long game, perhaps rethink your strategy. Relationships take time to build.

Update your contacts every few months on what you’ve been doing (still searching, but here’s what I’ve been finding; here’s what I’m thinking about these days; if you’ve landed something; update on how that internship went), and check in with them on how they’re been lately.

The students I’ve seen most successful with networking (and seeing results from their efforts), take time to develop and nurture those relationships, and don’t expect immediate results from someone they’ve just met.

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about the University of Richmond here

Katelyn Jerles The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and Career Productions, LLC

Assistant Director for Career Services

My top networking tips are to be open, friendly, and connective.  Seeming very close minded and focused in your career can exclude you from so opportunities you might be interested in down the road.  

Having an open mind and networking with others that you may not currently have any connection or interest in may pay off in the long run.  

You never know who that person has connections with and some industries or communities are much smaller than you think.  Being friendly is as simple as smiling, wishing someone a happy birthday or weekend, and asking questions.

People like to help people who they enjoy talking to.  No one is going to refer you to one of their contacts if they themselves don’t enjoy connecting with you.   

Use LinkedIn to Connect After Meeting People

A great method to keep your connections organized is LinkedIn.  Connect with people after you meet them and throughout your career you will build a robust network of people you may have otherwise forgotten.  

Luckily LinkedIn (and your email inbox) keep detailed histories of conversations and timelines so you don’t have to remember.

A great networking tool is the LinkedIn alumni finder.  Most people understand LinkedIn but don’t fully take advantage of being able to find fellow alums with the same degrees in a certain industry, area, or organization and have the ability to send them a connection message.  Alums always love helping other alums.

What tool every student should use: The LinkedIn alumni finder. Most people understand LinkedIn but don’t fully take advantage of being able to find fellow alums with the same degrees in a certain industry, area, or organization and have the ability to send them a connection message. Alums always love helping other alums.

Learn more about Career Productions, LLC


Keith Sun, University of Cincinnati

Assistant Director of Career Services, Carl H. Lindner College of Business

1) Be intentional about who you want to network with

If you want to work in a particular industry someday, target professionals who work in those career fields you aspire to.

2) Take advantage of student organizations, local conferences, and campus events

A lot of professionals and employers are already coming to campus to connect with students, and they in particular are already inclined to help. Guest speakers and alumni are abundantly around for you to introduce yourself and make a positive impression.

3) Tap into ALL your social networks to meet people 

Tap into your community of worship, your family friends, your fraternity buddies, your teachers, your co-workers, and the list goes on and on. Even if your social circles are small, you can easily expand them by asking your current connections to introduce you to friends they know.

4) Start early

This is a good habit that will serve you so well in the long run. Networking will help you obtain/change jobs more quickly than the average person over the course of your life, and provide you inside opportunities to grow your own business someday, meet really cool people you never would have a chance to otherwise, and develop supporters for all challenges you will inevitably face.

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn More about the University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business Career Office

Padmaja Rao, Wayne State University

Assistant Director of Career Services

I would say to students to think of networking as having a ‘mindset’ to simply reach out to other individuals and try to connect with them about anything (and not just as a task for finding a job).  Networking should be seen as a skill to cultivate or nurture on a continuous basis throughout one’s life as it can help in all types of life situations.

Networking can be done very informally and simply making connections in this manner can help take the edge off – especially for those students who feel anxiety about networking in general.

Now, from the perspective of wanting to gain employment, networking with others -especially in face-to-face settings – is very important as it allows people to gain more insight about an individual than what can be gleaned from a career document alone (cover letter, resume).

I would also add that it’s important for students to think about networking as a continuous process of relationship-building in which meaningful connections should be made well before an official job search begins. Moreover, networking should be seen as reciprocal (which, of course, lends itself to better relationships).

What tool every student should use: NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers)

Learn more about Wayne State University

Amy Evans, Grove City College

Associate Director of Career Services

When encouraging students to begin networking, we start by focusing on the people they know, and it’s important to narrow it down to a limited number – top 10 to top 50.  

Some tips I suggest is for students to look at their calendar and mark out time to connect with their top contacts. The specifics will vary, but it should be something that’s realistic for each student and their schedules. What’s important is the overall focus on networking, not the specific way we choose to network.

Additionally, I suggest researching to steer the conversation – who are you meeting/connecting with, why are you wanting to meet/connect with them specifically, what do they do that interests you, how do you want them to help you in your career development?  

Within this is personalized messaging – which is key – and then asking your contact specific questions, seeking to understand.

And most of all, primarily what I suggest to every student interested or introduced to networking – the goal should be to build relationships first.”

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about Grove City College


Laurie Hollister, New York Institute of Technology

Career Services

Let everyone know you’re looking for a position (internship, job, etc) six degrees of separation has a long reach.

-Use the alumni tool on LinkedIn to reach out to alumni who work where you want to work or are doing what you want to do .

-For my campus, NYC is our networking backyard, take advantage of all your city has to offer in the way of niche meetup, affinity groups, boutique start up fairs

-Tap your career center staff for contacts, they know people!

-Perfect your elevator pitch and marketing materials so when the networking opportunity arrives you’re prepared.”

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about New York Institute of Technology

Lindsey Plewa, Baruch College

Associate Director of the Graduate Career Management Center

The most important networking tip is to follow up. Just because you’ve met someone at a networking event doesn’t mean they’re now a solid networking contact. It’s all about following up afterwards and having some 1-1 time over coffee (or phone if meeting in person isn’t an option).

Similarly, you should periodically follow up with your network by sending a check-in email. You could update them on a recent work/class project and/or send an article of interest.

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about Baruch College


Danny Michael, University of Chicago – Master in Financial Mathematics Program

Assistant Director of Career Development

At the end of the day, networking is a fancy word for human interactions in professional environments. Students, especially undergraduates, usually feel anxious when they hear the word networking. Below are a few tips I share with my students to help them make the most of their networking experience:

– Choose an event related to an area you are passionate about so that your conversations with other attendees feel genuine.

– Do your research to find out who is attending, what do they do, how could they help you in the long run; and prepare 2-3 questions for each person you want to talk with.

-Small talk is a form of good manners, especially in a more casual setting. Choose something in common, and use that to start the conversation.

(Further reading: Check out our Bill Clinton Guide to Networking)

– A lot of times the conversation can move in a direction you did not prepare for, which can make you nervous. Do not forget to listen carefully so that you can pivot smoothly and ask follow up questions.

-Do not expect immediate results from networking. You are establishing a network; a pool of resources that you can tap into as you are taking new steps towards your career. “

What tool every student should use: Glassdoor

Learn more about University of Chicago Master in Financial Mathematics Program


Michael Cronk, Transylvania University

Associate Director of Career Development

Some tips for networking would be to first avail yourself of your career center, who can put you in touch with alumni within the field and companies/organizations you are seeking to connect with.

Always have a strong resume that you include in your networking letter; it shows a level of professionalism that is essential as well as documents your skills/experiences in the field you are networking in.

It is also important to research the professional and their organization prior to any meeting. A student should not walk into a networking meeting and ask “”What do you do?”” or “”Can I have a job?””

Networking is about seeking professional advice and relevant insights in a field; respect the networking contact by doing your homework ahead of time and come with specific questions that show you know much, but are eager to know more.

Finally, always send thank you notes to those who have taken the time to help you.”

What tool every student should use: The one resource I would recommend is the website of the Professional Association for the career they want to go into. For example, for those going into public accounting. There is a wealth of information about the profession, networking contacts, and many of them offer low cost student memberships for job searching and networking.

Learn more about Transylvania University


Jennifer Abing, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)

Assistant Director of Career Services

I’m glad you used the plural form for tips because there are so many I want to share with students!  Ultimately, find an event that sounds enjoyable to you, whether it focuses around a hobby or an interesting educational opportunity.  

Then go in with a mission.  Do you want to meet three people?  Do you want to learn more about this industry?  Do you want to make new friends? Having that mission puts you in the right mindset.

Second, ask questions and actively listen!  Yes, you have a mission but so does everyone else there.  If you are so keen and focused on how this conversation benefits you, others will notice.  I emphasize with students that they are able to provide value, especially to working professionals.  

You are in the great situation where you are learning about top-notch technology from top-notch educators.  What you are learning now won’t be the same topics, especially technology, from 20, 10, and even 5 years ago.  Ask, listen, provide value.

If You Are an Introvert, Practice First

Lastly, I like to throw in tips for introverts as I am an introvert myself.  Practice, practice, practice for starters. No one was ever perfect picking up that French horn for the first time.  

My mother thought our family dog was throwing up when I practiced my French horn for the first time at home.  The cure for fear is action. Keep networking and it gets easier.

Have a small goal to start, for example, I will talk to two new people.  If you’re nervous to start conversations, find the typical hang out spots where people will come to you.  If the event is offering food or drinks, find a spot close by.

Food and drinks attract a lot of people, including extroverts who will be happy to strike up a conversation.  Besides, introverts are typically great listeners. Ask questions and others will do most of the talking!

Learn More about Milwaukee School of Engineering Career Office

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn


Elsa Pourabdi, Brightwood College

Director of Career Development

Tip 1: Every Interaction Counts

I would say to students treat every interaction with strangers as an opportunity to brand yourself. (Whether your at the gas station pumping gas or waiting at line at Starbucks) deliver your elevator pitch. You never know that interaction might be the one that gets you the job or helps you get closer to getting the job

Tip 2: Get Good Business cards

Create good-quality business cards you can distribute all the time. Don’t be stingy with them, give them out like candy. Make sure to include you’re linked in profile on it. If you don’t have one then get one.

Tip 3: Network Strategically

Attend networking events/functions geared toward what you’re wanting to network for.

Tip 4: Always look your best 

You might be tempted to sleep in those extra 20 min. But I say wake up, put on some makeup and get dressed.

Tip 5: Resume

Always have resumes with you handy. Be ready to hand them out.

Tip 6: Practice

Let’s be realistic the first couple times you do this wether it’s taking to the stranger or going to an event you don’t know anyone you’re going to tank it. You will feel awkward, you’ll doubt yourself if it even was worth going to the event or worse yet you’ll run into a jerk who ignores you or another one thinking you’re trying to pick up on him. It’s ok don’t be hard on yourself.

The more you do it, the more you practice the easier it gets and the more natural it is. You get better at this you really do.

Tip 7: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. When you were a child you were told don’t talk to strangers. As an adult I encourage you to talk to them (now don’t go about getting into anyone’s van even if they promise candy lol) but seriously speaking talk to people.

We live in a high tech time where people are glued to their phones that taking the time to actually have a conversation goes a long way. But make sure you don’t do all the talking, let the person speak. When someone feels listened to they feel valued, heard, appreciated. At the end of the conversation tell them you wish them an amazing and productive day.

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about Brightwood College Career Development office and Elsa Pourabdi


Erica Hodes, The Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

Associate Director of Career Development

I work with students from incredibly diverse backgrounds and who are generally interested in careers with social impact. What I always tell them is that before they try to “do networking” they need to know themselves well.

Students often have a conception of networking that is pretty limited (go to a big event, try to give your card out, make awkward small talk, etc.), and they try to force themselves into a networking mold that may not work for them.   Instead, keep in mind that networking is about building authentic relationships, and you can’t do that well if you aren’t working within you own strengths and personality.

Introverts may find that starting with LinkedIn or email is more comfortable, while extraverts may prefer the bustle of a large event and group conversation.

International students or students with social anxiety often do really well with first being connected to someone through a mutual acquaintance because a cold-call style introduction may not fit with their cultural norms or mental health needs.  

No matter the approach, networking should never make you feel transactional or slimy. I’m a proponent of finding a different word altogether because it’s so fraught.

Building relationships is about making human connection–and that applies to both personal and professional settings.

What tool every student should use:  LinkedIn (basic, I know) and Glassdoor

Learn more about Brandeis University Careers Office


Shirley Konneh, College of the Holy Cross

Assistant Director for the Center for Career Development

Networking is an essential part of securing a job and learning about position titles and certain industries.  I personally am a serial networker. I would encourage students to not be scared when attending a professional networking setting because there are veterans in attendance who know what to do and you follow along.

Know your importance and know that you have something to offer. Know your audience beforehand, so you know who to target.

Have your elevator pitch prepared and questions to ask them. Wear your name tag on your right side because you tend to shake with your right hand.

Always have a drink in hand even if it is not alcoholic. Make sure you give the person your undivided attention and listen so you can follow up with the individuals within 24 hours.

Even if you were not interested in them or their company, they may know a person at the place where you want to work.

What tool every student should use: Linked In

Learn More about College of Holy Cross

College networking, career networking, career connections, networking tips

Cathy Lantrip, Christian Brothers University

Assistant Director of Career Services

Have a game plan. Determine what you hope to gain from the connection (as well as what you can bring to the table) before you start engaging with specific individuals or companies. Research them as much as you can beforehand to determine common areas of interest, background, or other talking points.

Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. Anything that can be answered with a simple yes or no can shut down a conversation. Most people enjoy talking about themselves if they feel truly listened to.

Give yourself a goal to speak with X number of people at an event. This is especially important for introverts or those with social anxiety who might find networking events more overwhelming. Tell yourself, for example, that you’ll speak with three people, hold yourself to it, and then you can leave or take a break to regroup and see if you’re up to continuing.

Using LinkedIn or message boards hosted by your professional organizations to do a soft introduction to someone by corresponding with them online before meeting or chatting by phone can also be a nice, fairly low-key way to ease into networking.

Be very mindful of your body language and expression when speaking in person or during video conferencing, as so much of our perception of other is based not on what people say, but on how they move and appear. Your neutral face should be a pleasant face!

Practice talking about positive things you’ve accomplished. Too often students are more modest than they need to be when they’re job searching. Get used to talking about yourself and what you’ve done and giving yourself credit for your own achievements.

Have multiple options for meeting people to reduce the pressure for any single event.

What tool every student should use: Their university’s Career Services website/online recruitment system

Learn more about Christian Brothers University Career Services


Valerie Wilson, The University of Saint Joseph

Assistant Director, Career Development

I advise my students with the following three tips.

1) Prepare your 30-second elevator pitch or speech in advance of attending your networking event or career fair.  An elevator speech is a brief and concise commercial about you. It is no longer than 8 to 10 sentences, or 30 seconds – the time it would take to ride an elevator from the bottom to the top of a building.

2) Conduct an informational interview.  This entails contacting someone who is currently working in an occupation that interests you and scheduling a meeting with them to learn more about their field of work.  Staying in touch with your new contact and becoming aware of future employment opportunities within their organization will increase your networking skills.

3) Establish a strong LinkedIn profile and begin making professional connections with the alumni of your university. Alumni can serve as a great wealth of information. These individuals have been in your shoes and know the challenges to getting started in your career. They can offer excellent advice and are willing to support you.

What tool every student should use: Bureau of Labor Statistics  

Learn more about The University of Saint Joseph


Gabriela Gutierrez, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)

Assistant Director, Career Development Services

I have 6 simple networking tips for students:

  1. Always have a copy of your updated resume with you. You never know the people you’ll meet at a networking event, info session or a career fair.   
  2. Show confidence. Students tend to hesitate when asked, why they chose a particular major. If students are still undecided about their career choice, don’t focus on how frustrating you feel, instead, demonstrate that you are trying to figure out your career path.
  3. Dress to impress. My grandmother had a saying “”the way you dress, you’ll be treated””. Don’t show up to a career fair, networking event or interview with jeans and a t-shirt. Students need to show interest in becoming a professional, so act like one.
  4. Always say thank you. It’s important to show that you are grateful for other individual’s time. At a networking event, collect business cards and send thank you emails. This minor detail can make a big difference.
  5. Don’t walk away. If you are attending a networking event for the first time and you feel anxious or nervous, take a deep breath and show employers that you are the candidate they are looking for.
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice. If you haven’t figured out your elevator pitch or don’t know what to expect during your first interview, I strongly recommend you start doing some research and reach out the career services department at your institution to schedule a practice interview session. “

What tool every student should use: Students should definitely be using their institution’s career services website. Career services offers various resources based on their student population.

Learn more about the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Career Development Services

Brian Bar, George Mason University

Assistant Director for Career Development

I normally instruct my students that networking is very similar to dating without all of the creepy implications and subtext. In general though, it’s about finding that balance of introducing oneself as well as finding the commonalities one has with an otherwise stranger.

The other common misconception many students have when networking is that it is viewed as transactional. While there is the occasion that it can be transactional, most networking opportunities are not one to one to one (one person gets one position from one contact). Rather, the contact you’ve just made, may be the one who leads you to another contact who would have a position available.

What tool every student should use: Linkedin is a good obvious choice for networking. CareerShift provides additional outstanding networking opportunities, but has the advantage of being a web aggregator that pulls in job opportunities and links directly to “contact me” pages of organizational websites.

Its main disadvantage is that it individuals have to pay for access, unless their Universities or Colleges have an access contract. Students and alumni should contact their career services to identify if they can have access.  

Learn more about George Mason University Career Development


TJ Warren, University of Northern Iowa

Assistant Director, Career Services

      1.  It’s About Who You Know 

You’ve heard it before. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, its who you know.”  It’s true. I didn’t believe it when I was younger. However, looking back, there was always a personal connection.

There was always someone there who gave me advice, provided me with an opportunity, connected me to another professional, or asked me to join them in their efforts.  People make the difference at all times in your life. Be sure to cultivate meaningful relationships.

  1. Networking takes place EVERYWHERE.  

Literally, EVERYWHERE. We often believe networking only takes place on LinkedIn or at conferences and specific networking events.  The reality is, one of the most meaningful interactions you may ever have could take place at a family reunion, a party, in class, or even at your local grocery store.  

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, be prepared to get to know someone else.  Share who you are, what you do, and what you are striving for. You just might bump into someone who can take you closer to your goal or purpose in life.

  1. You have to be personable.  

You don’t have to be extroverted, but you do have to be personable.  In other words, be yourself and be kind.

Some things to consider when networking: show interest, ask questions (open-ended especially), maintain good body language, smile, listen, laugh, be open to feedback, show empathy/care, and be positive.  

If you are introverted and are attending a major networking event or conference, concentrate on connecting with just one person.  This may make it less intimidating. AND! Always thank the people you meet and the one’s willing to give you their time and attention.  

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for help.  

In fact, it is a compliment to the person you are asking.  When you reach out to someone and ask them for assistance, you are in fact honoring them.  I always thought I would be burdening people when I asked for help.

More often than not, people with experience will offer you their time and insight, especially if you are just starting out on your career.  If they don’t, that’s okay too. Just keep reaching out. Eventually, someone will give you their time and attention.

When they do, be sure to THANK THEM.  And know this: someday, you’ll be asked for help down the road.  Be sure to lend a hand when its your turn.

My 10-Month Job Journey

A little bit of my story: There was one point in my career where I had a ten-month period looking for a job.  I was a year out of graduate school working at a small, private, liberal arts college, and my wife accepted a new opportunity to work under her mentor in a community about an hour away.  

With our first child on the way, there was no way I was going to commute back and forth.  So I decided to leave my current position at the time and figured I would find something (I had a master’s degree – I thought I could easily find something).  Well, it was a lot harder than I expected.

The truth is, what it made it a challenge was I wasn’t using my network.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed. My pride got the best of me and I didn’t tap into the various networks I had made all throughout college.

When it comes to your career and your life’s work, there is nothing more powerful than your network. When you are looking for a job, don’t depend on job posting sites.  You can use them, but your network, if you’ve built it well, will always be much more meaningful.

A networking exercise:

  1. Write down a job or type of work you ultimately want to do.
  2. Write down what you like about the work.
  3. Write down why and how you might excel at the work. These are the things you should always be prepared to discuss when seeking out other opportunities and interacting with your network.
  1. Then, think of 5 to 10 people you know who might be connected to the work or field.  You may or may not know them. (professors, family members, friends, community members, etc.)
  2. Then, think of 5 to 10 organizations you know might be connected to the work or field.
  3. Reach out to these people and organizations and see where they take you.


What tool every student should use:  LinkedIn and community chamber sites.  Most chambers have a young professionals group that you can connect and network with.  These can help you find that next great opportunity, especially when you have just graduated.

Learn more about University of Northern Iowa


Josh Smothers, California College of the Arts

Assistant Director of Career Development

For me, some of the best networking comes in the prep stages. Researching who you want to talk to (what do they do, where did they come from), the industry that they are in (who are the leaders, where was the industry, where does it seem to be heading), making sure that you are coming across as a professional, and also just talking to them like a person.

Not getting psyched out that they might be some fancy title at a huge company. Coming across like an informed relaxed person, goes along way. Talking to teachers, peers, and their career department.

Learn more about the California College of the Arts


EJ Presley, The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)

Assistant Director of Career Development

Students have to understand why they are networking:


-Making Connections

-Gaining Advice


A strong 30-second commercial is a necessity

-Eye Contact


-Articulating their V.I.P.S.

Learn the Art of Small Talk

-Find an Anchor! Anchors are things that you have in common with the person that you are networking with. There are 4 things people love talking about (Themselves, Jobs, Family, Pets)!

-Reveal something about yourself related to that anchor (You went to college in New York, I visited a college in New York when I was traveling)

-Encourage the other person to continue sharing (So tell me about New York! What is it like on a typical day? Is it really busy in New York) The person then becomes a content expert and they will educate you on the subject. Thus, continuing the conversation!

Being able to actively listen and respond

Follow up:

-Ask for business cards and state that you’d like to continue the conversation

-Ask for additional contacts

Stay Connected:



-Send a message via LinkedIn


What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Career Development Office


Debbie Boles, The University of Oklahoma

Assistant Director of Career Services

Create a list of people you already know and people you would like to get to know. I share an Excel Spreadsheet Job Search Log that encourages the student or alum to get organized. Keep track of the specific company information, details of applications, and any follow up made with the employer. Include details that will help when you are interviewing in the future.

The spreadsheet includes a networking chart. It allows you to document up to four leads from one networking contact. This way when a position comes from a lead, you can be sure to thank the appropriate contact and follow up as the employment status changes.

Also, consider adding copies of job descriptions, because they are only available as long as the position is posted. You can keep this information in your spreadsheet, and never have to print it.

What tool every student should use: Hands down, the best resource that every person should use is a LinkedIn account. I recommend that each person learn everything they can to help utilize the world’s largest free networking site.

Although you have an opportunity to upgrade your account to premium, I strongly recommend that you do not pay for a service until you have utilized every part of it. Paying money for a service does not give it more value.

Decide what your career goals include and map out the type of positions you are seeking, the industries that it could include, and the specific companies of interest. This is something that you will continue to build throughout your lifetime.

What tool every student should use:

Learn more about The University of Oklahoma Career Services

Lauren Wooster, University of Redlands

Assistant Director, Office of Career & Professional Development

I encourage students to approach networking as building long-term connections because they never know when they might circle back to a contact down the road. A good networking experience will feel like a learning exchange rather than a transaction.

Another suggestion that I offer is to explore networking in informal settings such as a university homecoming event or a visit home during a break.

If students approach all conversations with a genuine curiosity, they may be pleasantly surprised to find their next mentor, or even employer, sitting next to them at a football game, or on the plane ride home.

What tool every student should use:  LinkedIn! This tool is great for employment research and in many diverse fields and it has the added benefit of keeping track of alumni.

I highly encourage students to use LinkedIn to learn more about career pathways and reach out to professionals/alumni in their field of interest for informational interviews.

Learn more about the University of Redlands

College networking, career networking, career connections, networking tips

Lisette Guillen-Dolby, Seminole State College of Florida

Assistant Director, Career Development Services in the Career Development Center

Connect to your career early. This could be as simple as connecting in person or online with college peers, work colleagues, faculty and or other working professionals in the field of your choice and benefits you with research and information that is not always found easily.

Determine the story you want to tell.  Personal branding is a lot like story telling.  Start by sharing your education, skills and experience followed by that one thing that makes you unique and memorable.

Clean up your online profiles. Employers will research you online.  Start by removing/deleting compromising information/photos that could hinder your professional progression.  Use your privacy settings.

Next, create a comprehensive professional profile using a professional social media platform such as LinkedIn.  I think you will understand that what all of this information has in common is the word ‘professional.’

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about Seminole State College of Florida Career Services


Geralyn Mitchell, Appalachian State University

Assistant Director, Career Development Center

My big tip would be to not be afraid of making the connection or the ask to connect. I talk to a lot of students about connecting with industry leaders in their interested area and the biggest pushback I get is that it’s weird to connect with a stranger.

I tell them that connecting with someone in this digital age is sometimes the only way to be seen as a person and not just an application. What’s the worst that will happen – they do not accept your request?

What tool every student should use: LinkedIn

Learn more about Appalachian State University Career Development Center


Amanda Meeker Northern Kentucky University

Associate Director of Career Services

When I’m talking with students, my first goal is to help them understand that “”networking”” doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience.  

I relate examples of how they are already building a network at Northern Kentucky University – peers who help them with studying, class recommendations, student organizations, etc.; mentors/faculty/advisors who help them with academic and career guidance; employers and colleagues who help them in their work environment; and so on.  

Once they are open to the idea of networking, my main tips are as follows:

       1.  Have a Goal in Mind

Enter into a networking situation with a goal in mind, such as “I will meet 5 people working in positions related to my major.” 

       2.  Prepare beforehand, if possible.  

At career fairs and other on-campus networking events, students should review the list of registered attendees and research the organizations and available positions.

Community networking events often have a published list of attendees, which can help the student with step 1 of this process.  Students should also review all information about the event to ensure they are dressed appropriately, bring the right items (such as resumes or business cards), know where to park/check-in/etc.  

     3.  Anticipate small talk

Especially if a student is especially nervous in social settings, it can be helpful to brainstorm a few current events or personal (yet appropriate) anecdotes to share.  Being prepared will help the student understand who will be attending, but the student should be prepared for a variety of conversations with people from diverse backgrounds.

     4.  Be authentically yourself.  

If you’re funny, be funny (but keep it professional!)  If you’re serious and professional, be serious and professional.  If you are focused on your career, think of career-related questions and conversation topics.  

If you are exploring career options, engage people in conversation about their career exploration processes.  If you are focused on just meeting new people (not in a career-related capacity) then think of non-work conversation topics (sports, arts, entertainment, etc.)

     5.  After the networking event, reflect on how it went.  

Take a few minutes (beyond the time to get home) to think about conversations that went well, interesting people you met, and ways you can learn from today’s experience for even better networking in the future.  

      6.  Follow up with your new contacts!  

A quick email or hand-written note in the days following a networking event can be very meaningful.  It would be wise to make quick notes right after the event on who you met and highlights of your conversation.  You can then refer back to these notes to personalize your feedback.

Example of a quick email or LinkedIn note: “Sami, it was great meeting you at the XXXXXX event last week.  Thank you for sharing your story with me – my career transition has felt very challenging at times, but I am inspired that you have achieved so much career success after you changed paths.  I would love to continue our conversation over a coffee sometime next week, if you are interested. Thanks!”

What tool every student should use:  All students (and recent alumni) should connect with their university’s Career Services department.

Learn more about Northern Kentucky University Career Services


Lily Huang, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Gies College of Business

Assistant Director, Graduate Career Advising, Business Career Services

   1.  Networking opportunities are everywhere!

You never know who you will run into and you should always be prepared. I have a funny networking story with an older gentleman sitting across the aisle from me on an airplane.

I was watching a video about Korean pop music. He happened to be interested in that genre of music and we struck up a fascinating conversation about Korean pop culture and its global influence. Turns out he is a director in one of our peer institutions!

We were coming home from the same conference but we connected on something completely unrelated. Now I know I can reach out to him for both work and non-work related topics.

   2.  Build your network from your established personal social circle

I have another fun story to demonstrate this: I actually got my first opportunity in the field through my mom’s co-worker’s wife!

My mother was explaining what her daughter was studying to her co-worker, and he said his wife actually works in the same field. We got connected over email on Monday and by Friday, I went to her office to have an informational interview (more on that later). In two weeks, I landed an (unpaid) internship with her office.

Not only did that experience lead me to paid, professional opportunities, I now count her as my most trusted mentor. We still talk on a weekly basis and I still run a lot of my professional decisions with her.

    3.  Do informational interviews, and be prepared and strategic

Go into every informational interview with zero expectations of a full time job. You are just there to learn about the industry, their job and their career journey.

If you develop a good relationship with this contact, they will be the first one to inform you of an opportunity and they will help further your candidacy because they know you are a good fit. Almost all of my professional positions came about through informational interviews.

I only learned about one or two positions through job boards. I would go in with an open mind to explore and possibly share my own experiences. But because my contacts already knew my skill sets, they were able to articulate that to the hiring manager, which put me on the short list and ultimately landed me the job. “

What tool every student should use:

Learn more about University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Gies College of Business


Jason Eckert, University of Dayton

Director of Career Services

Don’t be afraid to meet people, face-to-face, in real life! While tools like LinkedIn are essential to organizing networking contacts and making initial contact, nothing can replace the power of an in-person meeting with another professional in your field of interest.  

Students should take advantage of academic breaks to seek out and meet with alumni and other professionals.

What tool every student should use:   I’ll name two.  LinkedIn, as well as your career center’s online platform, which may be powered by a company such as Handshake or Symplicity.

Learn more about University of Dayton Career Services


Elisa Seeherman, The University of the Arts

Director of Career Services

I encourage students to begin networking with “warm” contacts, which would be either people suggested to them by someone they know or alumni from our university. They will be more likely to respond positively to a networking request than a complete stranger.

If the student is reaching out via email, I stress the importance of wording the subject line in a way that will encourage the recipient to open it, so mentioning the name of the referring person or including the university name.

Students should also use their .edu email address, as again the recipient will be more likely to open the message, knowing it is clearly coming from a student.

Once a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting is scheduled, it’s critical that the student “do their homework” in advance to find any available information online about the person, which ensures that they won’t be wasting time asking unnecessary questions.

They should also think about what knowledge/advice they are seeking to gain and then prepare a list of relevant questions.

Ask About Others

People like to talk about themselves, so any networking conversation should first start with the student asking about the person’s own career path, decisions, etc., then it can move into questions about trends in their field, required skills, etc. and finally the student can ask for specific advice in launching their own career.

Students should realize that networking is a process and that their network needs to not just be built but also maintained. Students should be strategic in conducting regular communication with those in their network, staying in contact as appropriate yet not overdoing it.

So, after an initial connection is made (whether in person or virtual), it’s good to send an email to thank them for the information/advice they provided.

Then the student should look ahead to plan future contacts (perhaps brief emails with wishes for a happy holiday, as appropriate, as well as an update on their own academic growth like new courses taken, new skills acquired, an internship completed, graduation approaching, etc.).

It’s also appropriate to send them an email asking for their expert advice/feedback on the student’s resume.

What tool every student should use:   The obvious answer is! is another.

Learn more about The University of the Arts Career Services


Patricia Katzfey, Washington University in St. Louis

Assistant Director, Career Development (Career Center)

There are several parts to networking for students depending on where they are on the decision-making scale. For students who are exploring interests, networking may seem broad but speaking with a wide variety of professionals across industries and working environments helps students figure out generally what does and doesn’t interest them.

Additionally, if networking on-site at organizations helps students experience work environments and work cultures that fit with their own personality types (MBTI specific).

For students with more clear direction(s) networking is effective in helping them look more specifically at what key qualifications are required for initial jobs AND what capabilities they will be looking to gain on-the-job as they grow in their career fields.

These are the fine skills that help in developing strategic networking capabilities now and for long-term success.

When students are clearly moving towards post graduation, especially in highly competitive fields such as management consulting, investment banking, high finance, targeted networking is a must.

Get to Know People

Having an outstanding resume, GPA, leadership, and polished interviewing skills is half the story. Getting to know people inside organizations that can help a student move their application from the general population stack to the select few is critical.

These networking connects are much more that just cursory conversations but connections that have been carefully crafted, developed, honed that will and can lead to advocacy advantages for high potential applicants. (This is especially true for international students who face the hurdle of impressing employers enough to offer work authorization.)

At Washington University in St. Louis our extensive, accomplished and expansive alumni network has been an incredible first-level networking community. From here students then successfully have been able to extend their network from the WashU alumni to other industries, fields, geographic and interest specific contacts.

The most successful students learn to develop strong, effective, and in-depth networking in offensive and recovery strategies in the recruiting life cycle.

What tool every student should use:  We use LinkedIn extensively and spend time showing students how to connect with either WashU alumni or groups that pertain to their field, industry or occupation of interest. It is perhaps the best way to find people who are doing what students aspire to learn more about and someday also do for a living.

Learn more about Washington University in St. Louis Career Center


Cassie Hagan, Wabash College

Assistant Director of Career Services

Some of my big general networking tips would be:

   1.  Don’t underestimate people

At Wabash, we have a phenomenal alumni network which is extremely accessible to current students, and we naturally talk a lot about networking with alumni.

I think some students fail to initially see the value of their peer-to-peer network, which will be invaluable in the future. The guy in your Physics class could be someone you’d like to work for some day!

And a network is not a closed circuit. The partner, sister, or friend of an alumnus could be someone who can connect you to your next incredible opportunity. Meet everyone in the room when you’re at a networking event, and build relationships with those around you daily.

   2.  Follow-up!

Whether it’s a career fair or happen chance meeting with someone you find really interesting, get in the habit of asking for a business card. Send a follow-up email, hand write a thank you note, or connect on LinkedIn.

And if someone helps you out – follow-up and let them know you landed the internship they referred you for! Check-in periodically and maintain a relationship.

   3.  Don’t sell yourself short

Networking should be a two-way street, but the timing may have an ebb and flow. You may not see a clear way that you can help someone out now, but the opportunity may present itself to you – even in the near future as student.

Your supervisor was really pleased with the work you did on a project at your summer internship, and now they would like to hire another Wabash intern. Here’s your chance to help your supervisor and connect them with other students in your network, or participate in an on-campus recruiting event.

The alumnus who gave you some great advice last year knows you have a friend with lawncare company, or a sister who babysits, and needs a referral. Sometimes your age and position in life helps you bring a unique value to the relationship.

I guess the overarching theme for me, is students should approach networking as relationship building, and it’s a quality over quantity deal. Look for your opportunity to bring value to the relationship to keep the cycle going.

This may be pretty obvious to those with a little more life experience, but we can all use the occasional reminder to be more intentional about managing the relationships in our lives.

What tool every student should use:   LinkedIn

Learn more about Wabash Careers

Sarah Loughhead, McCann School of Business & Technology

Director of Career Services

Here a few of my top key tips I give to students and graduates in the topic of networking:

   1.  You are a representation of your employer  

Everywhere you go and online, even off the clock, you are a representation of your employer. Every person you meet is a connection and can lead to opportunities you didn’t even consider.

   2.  Listen more than you talk.  

Networking is about building rapport and a huge part of relationship building is listening. Before you ask someone to help you achieve your career goals, show them you are interested in what they do and their business first.

   3.  Perfect your Elevator Pitch

Be prepared to present your elevator pitch in any situation. You never know who you might run into at the grocery store, your child’s soccer game, or church!

What tool every student should use:  Social Media! LinkedIn, but even Facebook can be a great place to make connections if used appropriately.

Learn more about McCann School of Business & Technology


Wrap Up

There is no perfect “networking” strategy that will work for every student or graduate. However, there’s one thing which will not work – ignoring your relationships. Do so at your own peril.

However, if you take the time to build relationships proactively, deepen those relationships, and maintain them for the long therm, there is no stopping you.

About John Corcoran

John Corcoran is cofounder of Rise25, a boutique lead generation agency that helps B2B businesses to connect with their ideal clients, referral partners and strategic partners.

John started his career as a Writer in the Clinton White House, and today is an attorney and Chief Revolutionary behind, where he shows entrepreneurs and small business owners how to turn relationships into more clients and increased revenues.

He is the creator of Smart Business Revolution and the Smart Business Revolution podcast, where he shares strategies for using intentional relationship-building to grow your network and your income, and he interviews successful entrepreneurs about how they have used relationships to grow their businesses and their careers.

He has been profiled in Forbes and in the books Entrepreneurial You and Stand Out by Dorie Clark and The Successful Mistake by Matthew Turner, and his writing has appeared in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Art of Manliness, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Get Rich Slowly and numerous other publications, blogs and websites.