Networking is a process of building relationships to expand your career knowledge and advance your professional development. Connecting with people in your field of interest can help you learn about different career options, explore your fit within a particular profession and identify the qualities and skills of successful professionals. It is also an excellent way to learn more about industry trends and discover internship and job opportunities. Effective networking involves intentionally initiating and maintaining relationships over the course of time. Consider the following strategies as you enhance your networking skills:
Create Your List of Contacts
In developing your list of potential contacts, consider everyone in your personal and professional network, including:
- Friends, family members, neighbors
- Classmates and alumni from any schools you have attended
- Fellow members of clubs, organizations, professional associations
- Professors, mentors, staff members, academic advisors, coaches
- Former and current work supervisors and co-workers
While some of your primary contacts can be rich sources of career-related information, others may be able to refer you to another person who can offer help. As you reach out to others in your network, continue to refine your interests and goals with the information you have collected.
Be Prepared to Tell Your Story
As you begin building your network, know your story. An "elevator pitch" is a concrete, highly focused tool to help you introduce yourself and share your skills, abilities, and interests with others. As you craft your "pitch," determine the most relevant and noteworthy pieces about yourself, including your educational background, work experiences and strengths. Draw your listener in by using specific examples and highlighting your unique strengths. Consider the following example as you develop yours:
- "My name is Michael Pepperdine and I'm currently a junior advertising major at Pepperdine University. Through my advertising and business classes I have developed a strong interest in the advertising field and would like to find a summer internship where I can further explore my interests. I have practical experience with advertising including a part-time position with the Graphic, where I collaborate with local businesses to increase and create ads for Pepperdine's weekly student newspaper. In addition, I interned last summer with a film production company in their marketing department, where I researched and analyzed various movie posters to help develop and design an advertising campaign for a recently released feature film. I am very detail-oriented and organized and believe that I will be a great asset to the advertising team at XYZ Firm."
Create your pitch by using our Personal Pitch Worksheet.
Leverage Professional and Social Media
Your professional profile and engagement with social media are highly effective tools for networking. Professional and social media platforms are useful resources for researching careers, gaining insight from experienced professionals and searching for jobs. Actively manage your personal brand online to promote your skills, interests and professional aspirations with the following sites:
- LinkedIn – Develop your profile on the world's largest professional network to exponentially increase your world of connections, research companies of interest, discover job opportunities, and engage with alumni and industry groups. Update your profile regularly with the skills, qualities and experiences that will attract potential employers.
- Twitter, Google+, and Facebook – Explore the professional applications of these omnipresent sites to expand your network, improve your personal brand and interact with potential hiring managers. Professionalism is key to leveraging your online presence for the job search. Keep your profile(s) professional and activate privacy settings to control the information displayed publicly. Learn about how to use social media professionally by reviewing our Professional Use of Technology Guide.
- Reference our handout to understand how to use social media and technology appropriately in the workplace.
Set up an Informational Interview
An informational interview is a 15-30 minute meeting with the purpose of learning more about an occupation, industry, company, or other career-related information. It is an exploratory conversation in which you identify whom to interview, prepare questions to ask, evaluate the information you have gathered, and follow up with the person accordingly. You can reach out to anyone for an informational interview, including alumni, executives, supervisors, mentors, or friends. Keep in mind that it is designed to be a learning experience and NOT a solicitation for a job or internship.
Benefits of Informational Interviewing
- Discover new careers
- Provide direction in choosing a career path or preparing for a career change with firsthand, insider information
- Assess your compatibility with a particular career
- Uncover your professional strengths and weaknesses
- Revise your resume to better fit the specific industry or career field
- Offer insight to guide future job searches
- Improve your interviewing skills
- Expand your professional network
Guidelines for Informational Interviewing
- When contacting someone for an interview, introduce who you are, why you are interested in speaking with him or her and your degree of connection (e.g., fellow Wave with the similar academic major).
- Prepare a list of informed questions by researching the career field, industry and organization.
- Polish your resume in advance and be prepared to provide a copy if asked.
- Maintain a professional presence during the meeting and take notes.
- Be ready to share some of your own interests, experiences and career goals; try to find something you have in common with the person.
- Follow up by sending a thank you note.
- Stay in touch with your contacts by maintaining correspondence and updating them on your progress.
Refer to our Ultimate Guide to Informational Interviews for additional guidance on informational interviews.
Meet with Potential Employers
Companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies visit campus throughout the year to share career opportunities with students. During the annual Fall and Spring Career Fairs, company presentations and information tables, you can speak directly with employers about internship and job possibilities. Employers often share aspects about the company culture, tips for strengthening your application and opportunities about career advancement within the company. Employer events also offer the opportunity to practice introducing yourself to others and build your professional network as you evaluate your fit with a particular job, company and industry.
To see the full calendar of events and RSVP, log into Handshake.
Connect with Alumni
Building relationships with fellow Waves is an excellent way to expand your professional network in any stage of your career. Whether you are seeking to conduct an informational interview with a professional or researching a specific company, turn to your alumni network as a rich source of information and opportunity. There are a variety of methods to connect with alumni, including:
- Student Alumni Organization – Attend events hosted by this student-led organization designed to foster relationships among current students and alumni, including Night 2 Network and Hang 10 Dinners. These events gather alumni working in various industries to answer your questions and share their professional experiences to guide your career path.
- LinkedIn Alumni Groups– Curious about where alumni are working, what positions they hold and what experiences they've had since graduating? Explore your alumni network on LinkedIn and reach out to Waves in your targeted position, company, industry and interest area. Numerous groups cater to facilitating connections among students and alumni, including "Seaver College/George Pepperdine College Alumni," "Pepperdine University Alumni," "Waves Hiring Waves" and various local and regional chapter groups.
- Alumni Directory– Access the directory to explore your alumni network that spans across all academic majors, industries, graduation years and geographical regions.
For more information about alumni events, contact the Pepperdine Alumni Association.
Join a Professional Association
Becoming part of a professional association can open up your networking possibilities by connecting you with professionals in your field. These organizations exist at the local, national and international level as a way to educate, support, and advance the professional development of members. Participation in a professional organization also provides opportunities to find a mentor in the field, enhance your resume, gather industry knowledge and learn about job positions. The following directories can help you identify professional associations related to your field of interest:
Seaver College Career Center, Tyler Campus Center, Suite 210
Phone (310) 506-4184 • Fax (310) 506-4428