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Building Your Contact Network Webster University I Career Planning & Development Center

Overview

  • Networking defined
  • Identifying opportunities to build your contact network
  • Establishing mutually beneficial relationships

Networking Defined

Networking involves connecting and interacting with new individuals to form professional relationships and alliances. This can be helpful with potentially expanding upon your own professional development opportunities and goals, as well as helping expand the opportunities and goals of others.

While networking can at times provide you with information about job and internship opportunities, you may also possess valuable information, insight, or knowledge that can help others achieve their goals. Networking simply involves building new relationships which at times results in sharing information or resources that can help accomplish a goal.

Why is Networking Important?

Engaging in networking opportunities can be beneficial for several reasons, and can be especially useful for learning about and potentially pursuing career and professional opportunities.

Many job vacancies are never advertised or listed on websites or online job search engines, therefore, potential candidates are often identified and positions are often filled through referrals and word of mouth.

By engaging your contact network, you may discover potential opportunities that you might not otherwise realize exist.

Meeting new people and having the opportunity to express the types of skills you offer helps others understand how your contributions might benefit a particular organization.

Identifying Networking Opportunities

Opportunities to network exist both in person and online. Common face-to-face networking opportunities include professional conferences, academic/alumni events, and community meetings, but nearly any situation in which you are interacting with someone is a potential networking opportunity.

Online opportunities exist, especially though career management and social networking platforms such as Handshake and LinkedIn. For more information about using LinkedIn for networking, check out Making the Most of LinkedIn.

Who Should I Network With?

You most likely already have a substantial contact network in place and you may not be aware of all the potential opportunities it holds. Many people you already know may be able to provide insight regarding professional opportunities.

Individuals such as friends, family, alumni, professors, neighbors, members of your religious community, classmates, co-workers, and others may all serve as networking resources. Inform each person what your qualifications are and what type of experience you are seeking.

To help brainstorm possible connections that may already exist, take a moment to review the visual guide below, and identify existing contacts that you may already have in place.

Establishing Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Depending on the situation and your goals, you may want to discuss information such as who you are professionally, what you do, and what your professional goals include. You may also want to discuss your particular skills, or notable projects you have worked on. Having a brief networking or elevator pitch prepared is recommended. To learn more about developing a networking pitch explore the CPDC resource, Introducing Yourself.

Since networking can provide you with an opportunity to meet individuals from diverse professional backgrounds, you may encounter contacts from whom you can gain valuable insight towards a particular career or field. This can create an opportunity for Informational Interviewing.