Networking 101: Where to Start

In my time as a career counselor, I’ve noticed that students often know the importance of networking, but many do not know how to begin the process of reaching out. Networking, or building professional relationships, is a crucial part of one’s job search and career development. Many job opportunities are shared through networking. Through networking conversations, you can also learn the necessary skills to be successful in positions for which you do apply.

Since networking is so vital to career success, I’d like to share some helpful tips for networking as a Penn student or alum. Below, I have three tips to assist you with your networking journey:

1. Know Your Interests

The first step in networking is knowing what you are passionate about. To have a productive conversation with any professional, you need to know the language and terminology of your field. What are your skills? What career industries are you interested in? These are questions that you will need to be able to answer. For questions about identifying your skills and interests, check out Career Services’ self-assessment resources. For questions about choosing a career industry, please see our industry communities.

2. Use Your Resources

Next, once you have discerned your skills and interest areas, begin identifying employers who work in those industries. The post-graduate outcomes surveys on our website are a great place to find employers who have hired Penn alumni in the past. As an activity, go to the Career Services’ industry reports, click on your desired industry, and select a few companies or organizations that interest you. Developing a list of target employers will help you with your job search.

3. Connect with Alumni

Once you have clarified your interests and identified some employers, now you can begin connecting with alumni in those organizations. I recommend reaching out to alumni using MyPenn or LinkedIn. MyPenn is the University of Pennsylvania’s official alumni database. It includes specific contact information from Penn graduates. LinkedIn is also an easy way to locate Penn alumni. On LinkedIn, you can type an employer name in the search bar, look up the employees, and filter to find Penn alumni who work at these places.

When reaching out to an alumnus/a, it’s important to communicate your shared connection – having attended the University of Pennsylvania. Make sure to express interest in learning more about their specific job role or organization. Ask the alumnus/a to meet for a thirty-minute to one-hour conversation either in-person, virtually, or via phone. Check out our website for more tips on how to schedule networking conversations.

In sum, networking can be daunting. Yet, it is one of the most informative ways to learn about prospective fields and form lasting connections to mobilize your career growth. Use the steps outlined above to begin your networking journey. Also, feel free to reach out to Career Services staff to further discuss these recommended steps. We are here to help you succeed!

By Mark Kaloko
Mark Kaloko Associate Director, The College