Networking

Networking sounds like an intimidating word, but it really means creating and nurturing mutually helpful relationships with others. After each networking exchange, you and your contact have a better sense of each other’s goals and interests. This can come in handy on a job hunt and can lead to work opportunities. The more you network, the larger your network will grow, and the more opportunities you’ll discover!

The benefits of networking

There are two main goals of networking

  • Work search: To introduce yourself with the intention of being considered for current or future work opportunities
  • Career research: To find out more about a career path

Networking can help you

  • Hear about "hidden" opportunities (up to 80% of jobs are unadvertised!)
  • Meet a potential employer before there is an opportunity
  • Put yourself on the employer’s radar—most people prefer to hire someone they know
  • Find out what a particular job, organization or type of career is like
  • Clarify your career direction
  • Identify barriers and opportunities
  • Practice interacting with professionals

Getting started with networking

Remember the three P’s of networking: professionalism, preparation, and practice!

The first step of networking is to identify your goal. Are you currently looking for work, or do you want to learn more about a certain career path? (You don’t need to choose one or the other, but know what your goal is.) 

Next, identify who you want to talk to.

Prepare your introduction

You'll need:

  • Your name
  • Some background information related to your goals and experience
  • Your reason for contacting your network contact
  • Your request

While it's unlikely that an initial contact will lead instantly to work, you may be able to set up a follow-up meeting. The real measure of a successful networking encounter is when you are able to clearly and appropriately communicate your reason for connecting with your contact and uncover possibilities for further conversation.

Keep reading to learn where you can start networking!

Where to network

The network you already have

Networking doesn't just happen at formal events—you're already networking in your daily interactions. Networking can mean chatting with a classmate about a career fair or more deliberate exchanges, like meeting with a professor to find out what it’s like to work as an academic. Your existing network may include:

  • Family and friends
  • Classmates and colleagues
  • Social network friends (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Professors and schoolteachers 
  • Social groups (clubs, sports teams, church, etc.)
  • Current and former employers
  • Professional contacts (doctor, dentist, vet, accountant, hairdresser, real estate agent, etc)

If you're looking for work, start by reaching out to the network you already have. Tell them your specific goals—for example, don’t just say, “I’m looking for work, so let me know if you hear of anything.” Try something like “I want to work in a small company where I can get a wide range of experience”, or “Would you be able to suggest someone at ABC company I could talk to?”

Other networking opportunities

Networking on social media

Social media allows you to reach out to thousands of prospective employers at once, and more and more employers are expecting you to have a professional online presence.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network that lets you post your professional profile, including your work history, skills and projects. It lets you connect with other professionals based on your common work experience, job titles, associations, projects and more. You can recommend your contacts based on past projects or experience, and ask for recommendations from your contacts. Many employers use it to search for new employees.

How to use LinkedIn effectively

  • Check out LinkedIn For Students and Linked In Job Hunt Resources
  • Take the time to build your profile: It should take several hours to complete—aim for 100% completion!
  • Use keywords: Create a keyword-laden profile, using the areas of expertise, specialties and job description sections to highlight keywords related to your chosen industry (not sure about the keywords for your chosen field—Google it!).
  • Pick a high-resolution, professional-looking photo that reflects your field of interest
  • Customize your default LinkedIn URL to make it shorter and easier to remember
  • After you complete your LinkedIn profile, add the custom URL to your email signature and résumé
  • Get recommended: Try to find one recommendation from each of your most recent work or volunteer positions (don’t just rely on friends!)
  • Join and follow LinkedIn groups in your professional sector: Learn about your industry, make connections, build your professional reputation and see posted jobs
  • Join and follow LinkedIn groups for companies you want to work for: See who within your network works or previously worked for these companies
  • As you build your connections, add your contacts on LinkedIn

Facebook

  • The most obvious use for Facebook in a job search is to “share” the kind of job you are looking for and see if your friends have any ideas or helpful contacts.
  • Check your privacy settings and keep your profile professional looking—employers will search for you on Facebook when they look at your résumé or application
  • Join groups for companies that you’re interested in working for
  • Join groups related to your industry to find people with common interests and network with them
  • If you like Facebook better than LinkedIn, create a Facebook account that shows your professional work and use this profile to connect with your professional contacts. This could be a separate account from your personal Facebook profile.
  • If you have a large network, you may try going to your Facebook Marketplace, which lists job openings or other opportunities in your network. When searching for jobs, you’ll be able to see who listed the item and then message the hiring manager directly.

Networking at a career fair or event

A great way to expand your professional network is to attend a career fair or networking event. You can learn about specific careers, practice networking with professionals and find out why company staff chose their line of work, how they got in, what they do, and what they like or dislike about their jobs. We offer lots of career events on campus to help you meet employers!

At career fairs and employer info sessions, organizations are usually looking to recruit employees and they're keen to promote their organization. They often send human resources staff who work in recruitment. At other events, attendees may not be recruiting direclty, but it's a great chance to meet new contacts, ask questions and expand your network.

How to prepare for a career fair or networking event

  • Don’t just show up on the day of the event—make a game plan first
  • Find out who's coming and research the organizations you're interested in
  • Update and print copies of your résumé (if you're looking for work) and business cards
  • Put together a professional outfit to wear
  • Practice a 20-second verbal introduction including your name, background, reason for contact and request/question (practice it out loud first, so you don’t sound scripted!)
  • Put together a short list of questions to ask representatives

Sample introductions:

  • Good morning, my name is ______ (handshake). I’m just about to finish the geography program here at UVic. I’m interested in the research your company is doing on transportation policy. Could you tell me a bit more about it?
  • Hello, I’m ______ (handshake). I’m going to be finishing my degree in sociology this May. I’m really interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, particularly forensic work. Could you tell me how I would go about applying for that work with the RCMP?

Sample questions to ask:

  • How does one enter this field/profession? (Or: How did you enter it?)
  • What are typical entry-level job titles?
  • What skills or knowledge are important for this work? 
  • How are the prospects for this work in Victoria (or elsewhere)? 
  • What are the educational/training requirements? 
  • Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in this work? 
  • Do you know of anyone else I should be contacting to learn more about this work? 
  • Do you hire students for summer jobs or co-ops?
  • Could you suggest any volunteer work that might help me get some experience? 
  • What kinds of positions will you be recruiting for? How would I apply?
  • How important is having related experience? 
  • Would I need more than an undergraduate degree for employment or advancement? 
  • How would you describe the culture of your organization? 
  • How is the company responding to [a current event or trend]?

What to do on the day of the event

Dress professionally, bring copies of your résumé (if you're looking for work) or business cards and wait for your turn to talk to your contact. Introduce yourself, offer a firm handshake and ask your main question or two. If others are waiting, be mindful of their time, but if it's not too busy you can ask a few further questions. Ask for business cards and provide your card if appropriate. You might want to ask your contact if you can email or call to follow up on your discussion, or ask whether you can keep in touch. Thank each person for their time and shake hands again as you say goodbye.

After the event – Following up

Follow up with the representative by sending a thank-you note or inquiring about a job opportunity you discussed. If you told the contact that you’d be sending a résumé or cover letter, do so. If your contact said you could keep in touch after the fair, send them an update to tell them how your work search is going. You might be surprised at what can come out of developing and maintaining the relationship.

Sample thank-you note:

Dear John,

Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with me today. Sharing your experience as a manager at Mark's Work Wearhouse gave me a lot of insight into what the culture is like in your organization. I was really impressed with how you described the importance of teamwork in running a successful business and how you motivate your staff. I also walked away with a positive sense of Mark’s Work Wearhouse’s commitment to global sustainability and corporate responsibility. I would love to stay in touch and if you hear of any opportunities that may be a fit, please feel free to contact me at ____.

Sincerely, 
Jane A. Student

Using business cards

A business card is the most basic work search tool—and one of the most underused. It’s a simple summary of your name, contact info and credentials to hand out to potential employers.

Using a business card makes you look organized and professional. Employers appreciate receiving business cards, as they’re small and easy to file.

When to use a business card

  • When you want to provide someone with your contact information at events when it’s not appropriate or convenient to provide your résumé.
  • When you’re providing hard copies of other career documents, like résumés or thank-you notes (paperclip your business card to the document or card).
  • When you’re in an informational meeting with someone.
  • If you have a job, don’t use your business card from your current organization if you’re looking for another position.

What to put on your business card

  • Your name – Bold your name and/or use a larger font than the rest of the information
  • Your basic credentials – Your degree and any professional designations you have. You may also want to include your area of professional specialization or key skills, but don't crowd the card too much.
  • Your personal contact information – Your phone number and email (use a professional-looking email address!). Don’t include your home address.

Tips for making your own business card

  • To make your own simple business card, you can buy pre-punched business card paper in a letter-size format and use the “label” function on your word processing program. You can also search for templates and ideas online—try searching "Student business cards".
  • If you want to have them printed professionally, contact a local stationery or print shop to look at a catalogue of cards.
  • It’s a good idea to use a neutral-coloured card stock (white or off-white). You could choose a subtle background design, but keep your audience in mind.
  • The card's "look" should match the type of work you're targeting. For example, if you're applying to an established/conservative business like a bank, your card should have a corporate “feel”. If you're applying to arts organizations, you might want your card to show some creative flair.
  • Try to use the same font you used on your résumé and cover letters so they look like a matched set.
  • Before you print your business cards, ask two or three people to take a look and give feedback.
  • Your business card should be professional-looking, uncluttered, clearly organized and free of mistakes (no spelling errors or typos, especially with your phone number and email address!)