Networking is the single most effective method of gathering career-related information, developing contacts within a community or an industry, and uncovering the hidden job market.
Networking & Personal Pitch Workbooks
Use this comprehensive, Personal Networking Strategy Workbook to help you successfully navigate the career exploration and internship/job search processes through conversations with others. Use the Personal Pitch Workbook to help you craft an effective and memorable introduction.
Thinking of starting your outreach email with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”? Don't do it! How you communicate with employers and alumni will leave an impression, make it a good one. Before reaching out, review our guidelines on how to communicate professionally and effectively. While we include sample text, your outreach should sound like you, so don't just copy and paste! Make sure to check out the sample emails for requesting an informational interview.
The Hidden Job Market
Most employers prefer informal and personal methods of identifying employees and believe personal contacts result in more in-depth, accurate, and up-to-date information. Networking does not eliminate the need to use other job search methods, but it will produce helpful referrals from many of your contacts.
The way to develop your network is by talking to people. Networking allows you to build your knowledge about career paths and industries, and gather information about potential opportunities. The discussion can be formal, such as talking to a recruiter at a career fair, speaking with an employer at an Information Session, or conducting an Informational Interview with an alumnus/a. Networking can also happen in a more casual setting, such as chatting with your roommate's parents during family weekend, talking to your coach about your desired summer plans, or striking up a conversation with a peer in one of your classes.
BEFORE reaching out, you need to know what you want to say about yourself. What do you want people to know about you? Or think about you? How do you want them to remember you? How will you leave an impression? Use the Pitch Workbook to help you craft your introduction.
Joining LinkedIn is a great way to start, or continuing, building your professional network. Using LinkedIn you can network with alumni and individuals in your field of interest, research companies, and learn about opportunities. For valuable resources on networking and job searching, visit the LinkedIn for Students page. Also view:
How To Network
Determine the types of referrals you need—are you seeking information about career options or specific employers and positions? Start by compiling a list of initial contacts and the questions you would like to ask them, such as:
- Can you tell me about your experience working for [insert company name]?
- How did you get into this field/company?
- How does one learn about job opportunities in this field? In this organization?
- What skills and experience do you look for when you hire?
- Can you suggest anyone else in the field to whom I could reach out?
- May I use your name when I call?
- Would you please let me know if you hear of any openings?
Tips for Successful Networking
- Make courteous initial contact, requesting a reasonable amount of the person’s time (e.g. 20 minutes).
- Send a brief email stating how you got the person’s name, and why you would like to speak to him or her.
- Attach a copy of your resume, noting that it is for background information only.
- Ask for information, NOT a job. If you make a good impression the contact will let you know of any openings.
- Arrange face-to-face meetings whenever possible.
- Use affiliations to enhance your networking, such as professional and community-based organizations, fraternities and sororities, athletic teams, etc.
- Be politely persistent. There are many reasons a person will be unavailable on the first or second try.
- Try to obtain several referrals from each person you contact. Organize your contact information to remind yourself when to make make a phone call, write a letter, or send a thank-you note.
- Follow up on leads and keep your contact informed of your progress. If you do not pursue a specific suggestion, let your contact know because he or she may have already made a call on your behalf.
More Ways to Develop Networks
- Participate in the Alumni Connections Program to build relationships with and job shadow Cornell alumni.
- Participate in an internship and use that opportunity to develop relationships with your supervisor, and other colleagues at the organization.
- Join professional associations (e.g. ASME, NSBE, SHPE, SWE, etc.) for career-related information and to build connections in your field.
- Connect with Cornell Engineering Alumni. Search for alumni on LinkedIn. Meet alumni through on- and off-campus career events and social activities. Identify Cornellians in news articles and request informational interviews. Join your local Cornell Club after graduation.