What is networking?
Networking is simply talking and building relationships with professionals in careers that interest you to help you learn what it’s like to work in a particular role, field, or industry. Think of it as talking with people to research and gather information about careers.
You’ve probably heard from many people that networking is important, but why? For the job search, networking is important because talking with people can give you unique insights into job responsibilities, company culture, and the inner workings of an organization that you may not be able to glean elsewhere. This information can then help you better present yourself in your application as a strong fit for the role and organization. Networking is also important because who you know matters a lot in the hiring process. If a hiring manager receives over 50 applications for one position, you can bet that the hiring manager will want to hear from her network which applicants she should pay close attention to. If you know someone at her organization who can give you a referral or put in a good word for you, your chances of moving forward in the next steps of the hiring process can be greatly improved.
Networking, however, takes time. Building good relationships to the point where someone would feel comfortable advocating for you cannot be done over night, so it’s better to start talking with people sooner rather than later. Share information about your background, interests, and achievements with professionals you meet, and remember to stay in touch to keep the relationship going. The more often you network, the more people you’ll be in touch with and the stronger your professional relationships will be as you navigate your career. Don’t forget to keep track of who you’ve reached out to using a spreadsheet, app, or another organizing tool.
Who Should I Be Speaking With?
Start with the people you know first; these are people already in your network. Think of colleagues, friends, classmates, former supervisors, mentors, family relatives, neighbors, and anyone else you’ve been in contact with throughout your life. Are there people in your social circle in jobs and careers that interest you? After networking with those you already know, you’ll want to network with those you don’t know. Do those in your social circle know other people they can connect you with? Can they facilitate an introduction for you? Having a friend or colleague in common often makes it easier for you to network with someone you haven’t met before.
Beyond your own network, there are thousands of Penn alums around the world that are also part of your network. LinkedIn and MyPenn, Penn’s Alumni Online Community, feature over 150,000 alums in a range of fascinating and meaningful careers. You can use both platforms in conjunction in your research; sometimes you might find information, like an email address, on MyPenn that isn’t available on LinkedIn and vice versa. The fact that you are affiliated with Penn is a great way to establish rapport and build a relationship with professionals.
When Should I Network?
The best time to network is when you don’t need a job! Imagine if you’re a professional, and a student contacts you to learn about your career and shares that she is finishing up her degree in one month and will need a job soon. How would you feel? Would you feel slightly nervous that this student might expect you to help her find a job? Perhaps you might decide not to meet with her? To ensure that professionals will be as candid and helpful as possible, it’s best to network when you are not under the pressure of needing a job in the near future.
Career fairs are an excellent way to network and learn more about careers and employers. Employers that are interested in hiring Penn students come to campus every year with the goal of recruiting top talent and filling their hiring needs. By researching the employers attending the fairs ahead of time, you’ll be able to speak with recruiters and Penn alums who represent their employers and ask them questions that can give you insights into particular career paths and work cultures.
The art of informational interviewing
Informational interviews are 1-on-1 conversations that you have with professionals, often Penn alumni, to gather information about their career path, the jobs they’ve had, the industries they’ve been in, employers they’re familiar with, emerging and future trends in their fields, the skills they’ve developed and used, and more. Think of them as just having a chat with someone to learn about their professional experiences. These interactions are great ways to explore diverse careers, and can give you useful insights into different roles and employers that can make you a better candidate for future applications.
How to leverage Penn alumni on LinkedIn
Are you looking for some easy-to-use tips to enhance your LinkedIn experience as you grow your professional network, explore careers, and learn about different job functions and employers? If you have a LinkedIn profile, but don’t always know the best way to take advantage of this tool to research your career options and find connections in the vast Penn alumni network, then explore some action steps you can take. Schedule an appointment with a career advisor to get feedback on your profile, and follow these quick tips to improve your networking strategy and meet more of your networking goals.
MyPenn networking with Penn alumni
MyPenn (formerly QuakerNet) provides you with easy access to a searchable database of Penn alumni that can be filtered by degree, School, major, employer, location, and even by areas of student interest. This resource is a great starting point to find people to reach out to for an informational interview. MyPenn can help you to build a list of possible contacts, and it includes professional and personal email addresses you can use as you reach out. Combined with a tool such as LinkedIn, this is a great way to coordinate your networking and outreach. If you want to focus on alumni who have expressed a willingness to answer your career-related questions, then click on the “Directory” tab, and select “Available for mentorship” from the available filters on the left-hand side. You can always expand your search to include all alumni as you make progress with your networking.
Online course: Networking at Penn
Short, learn at your own pace Canvas courses on Interviewing, Networking and Resume/CV Writing. You can enroll at any time – find more information here.
Learn how to network with CareerShift
CareerShift provides users with a structured and strategic way to find and network with contacts across career fields, industries, and employers. CareerShift’s one-stop-shop platform allows students and alumni to search, store, and organize their job and internship searches and networking contacts instantly. CareerShift helps job candidates keep day-to-day communications organized by scheduling email reminders for job follow-ups, interviews, and phone calls.