Before we get into how to start networking, it’s important to take a step back and review what networking means and why it’s valuable.
What is networking and why should you start?
Networking is the process of discovering and developing connections between people. You’re not alone if you’re intimidated by the prospect of networking! However, you likely have experience with it already, even if it hasn’t been in a career-related context before. For example, you may have engaged in networking as you prepared to come to BU for the first time. Maybe you identified and contacted people you know who go to BU and/or are knowledgeable about Boston to learn what to expect and get advice and recommendations. Maybe you began building new connections through Orientation that you maintained after arriving on campus. You can use these same networking skills in your career journey!
Networking can be helpful as you’re looking for an internship or job; about 80% of jobs are found through networking. However, you can start networking even before you launch an internship or job search; networking and informational interviewing enable you to learn about roles, industries, and organizations of interest. It’s also a strategy for career exploration!
Once you’ve decided to start networking, it’s time to identify contacts. We recommend that you start with people you know. Your network is usually larger than you realize and it includes family, friends, classmates, faculty, staff, coaches, current and former supervisors, and more. Get comfortable discussing your career interests and goals with others; you never know whom someone might know. Plus, this will give you a chance to practice and build your confidence before reaching out to new contacts.
We’d also encourage you to tap into the BU alumni network through LinkedIn and BU Connects, a global networking platform exclusively for BU alumni, students, faculty, and staff. Through BU Connects, you can browse a directory to find connections and those willing to help. Users in the platform are willing to help in various ways from resume reviews to career conversations and introductions to connections. Through LinkedIn, you can also search for BU alumni by where they live, where they work, what they do, and what they studied. This is a way to explore career paths and make connections.
Lastly, connect with employers on Handshake and through campus recruiting events, such as information sessions and career fairs. You can learn about upcoming events on Handshake here.
Reaching out & keeping in touch
Before you reach out, determine your goals: are you seeking advice, an informational interview, or feedback? Your approach may vary depending on who you’re contacting, but you generally should aim to cover the following points: introduce yourself and the name of the person who referred you or how you found them, be specific about why you’re reaching out, and how they can help.
For example, if you’re reaching out for an informational interview, you could write, “My name is ______ and I’m a student at BU. I’m very interested in a career in publishing, and I have started to explore this area. I’ve viewed your LinkedIn profile and I understand you’ve been involved in the field for some time. I would be interested in your perspective on careers in publishing. If it’s convenient for you, could we arrange a time to talk briefly?”
Prior to the meeting, brainstorm questions and talking points. It’ll be a conversation, but since you initiated it, they’ll expect you to come prepared to lead it. Always make sure to send a thank-you note afterward, referencing something that was discussed or a piece of advice they gave. Keep in touch with your new contacts by sharing periodic updates.
Additional networking resources
- Center for Career Development (CCD) Appointments: Schedule a LinkedIn & Social Media Positioning appointment if you have questions about how to build a standout profile, how to engage with connections in a meaningful way, what and when to post, how to apply for jobs, how to research companies, and more.
- CCD Workshops: Check out our upcoming workshops on networking in Handshake.