Written by Nellie Ellis '23

Submitted by Nellie Ellis '23

A 2016 survey found that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.* Unfortunately, many people still shy away from the practice because they have negative misconceptions about how it works. I'm here to change these misconceptions so that you can confidently utilize networking in ways that are practical, effective, and fun. 

Wait, It's Not Just Elevator Pitches and Handshakes? 

I once thought networking meant going into a room filled with people wearing suits and ensuring that I shook everyone's hands and gave everyone my elevator pitch. This type of networking does have its time and place, like at a social hour at a business event. But there are two issues with believing that this is the ONLY type of networking. One, not everyone has access to these types of events. And two, it limits the size of your network. 

Remember that networking is interacting with others in order to develop contacts. Think about how many people you interact with daily at the gym, club and scholarship meetings, sports events, and during work shifts. If you introduce yourself to the people around you and attempt to get to know them, they will become a part of your network – no business suits required. For example, a friend of mine became friends with a coworker at a summer job. The two parted ways after the summer, but the coworker recommended my friend for an available job months later. This connection allowed my friend to get her foot into the door of a top marketing company in Louisville, Kentucky. Some of the most valuable people in your network can come from informal connections. 

Social Hour During a Professional Event

Think "quality over quantity." Don't make introducing yourself to every person in the room your goal. Instead, focus on introducing yourself to a few people and making meaningful connections with them. This comes through genuine conversation, not just elevator pitches. Some part of their life may connect to your passion or work, and exploring the connection will make you stand out. FYI, try to read up on attendees in advance because this will help you better target who you want to connect with. Finally, make sure that you get their contact information before leaving the conversation. It's best to follow up with them immediately after the event instead of waiting until you need something. A straightforward way to do this is by emailing them to tell them that you appreciated the conversation and to thank them for their time.  

So, You've Built Your Network. What's Next? 

A network is there for you to call upon when you need something – a job, an internship, a recommendation letter, or help with an event. Tap into your network. You can do this in person over coffee or lunch, online via email, or (if you know the person close enough) through a well-worded text message. Respectfully let people in your network know your needs and how they can help. 

I would also recommend setting up an account on a business and employment-oriented online service such as Linkedin. Keep your profile as up-to-date as possible and connect with those in your network. These online services let your network know what you are doing, let you know what others in your network are doing, and connect you with new people. This makes it more likely that people will reach out to you with or for opportunities.  

Networking is A Mutual Aid System

The idea of networking turns some off because they believe it takes advantage of people: it's a system where you only ask, “What can you do for me?" This does not have to be true. Make your network one of mutual aid by ensuring that those in it know they can also reach out to you for anything they might need. As mentioned in the last paragraph, you might be able to offer them access to opportunities or important advice. When asked, try your best to provide that. You may even be the friend who recommends them for a job! The saying, "What goes around comes around," is true, even in the practice of networking. 

Now You’re Ready 

Networking is a vital part of your career, and now you understand how to utilize networking in practical, effective, and fun ways. So, get out there, put it into practice, and debunk the myths for others. 

* New Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking | LinkedIn