As you prepare to enter your chosen career field, networking will be an essential tool for exploring your future career path and meeting others who can assist you along the way. Most people are happy to help out another person, and that’s what true networking is all about — meeting people, getting to know them, and helping each other build lasting connections that may lead to professional opportunities in the future.
Why start building your professional network?
- to explore careers
- to learn about an industry or organization
- to come across job, internship, or research opportunities
How do you start to network?
If you have family or friends who work in your field, ask them who they know that you can meet with. On campus, you can also ask professors, alumni, or staff in a relevant career area who you can contact.
When reaching out to a new contact, email them to introduce yourself and schedule a phone call or meeting.
- do not send your resume in your initial correspondence
You may run into people you want to connect with almost anywhere. Professionals that you can network with could be in any setting, including:
- St. Olaf faculty and staff
- your place of work, research, or service
- job or internship fairs
- Piper Center events for career exploration and alumni connections
You can network with anyone who can offer you advice, information, or referrals to other contacts.
These people can include:
- relatives, professors, advisors, employers, alumni, and others
- use the alumni directory and St. Olaf’s LinkedIn alumni page to find alumni in fields of interest
When connecting with new contacts over email, use the following steps as a guide for your initial email:
- introduce yourself
- state how you received their contact information (referral from professor, alumni directory, etc.)
- in a sentence or two, explain why you are interested in connecting with them (interest in their career field or organization, explore what you can do with your major, interest in their geographic area, etc.)
- make your request for insight, information, or advice clear
- e.g. would you be willing to meet/speak with me to discuss your career path and provide any advice that you have for me as an emerging professional in the field?
When you want to connect with a person you don’t already know, prepare for the meeting as you would for an informational interview.
- research the basics about their organization and their professional path
- put together some specific, tailored questions you want to ask the person. consider topics such as:
- insight into the person’s job or organization
- career advice or ideas
- information about careers and referrals
- think about what goals you have for the meeting and formulate questions based on those goals
- review how to prepare for an informational interview
Be sure to network in a professional and courteous manner.
- respect the person’s time — always ask if it is a good time to talk
- be curious, attentive, and ready for conversation
- ask permission to use the person’s name with future connections or referrals
- send a personalized thank you note (email or handwritten) after your meeting
- read through this article for templates and examples
- stay in touch — connect with the person on LinkedIn, and check in from time to time with a relevant article or a professional update