Did you know that over half of all jobs and internships are found through networking? Networking simply means making career connections with others—not just the employer at your dream job but also coworkers, classmates, professors, family members, university staff, career fair recruiters, advisors, your neighbors, past employers, social organizations, clubs and friends. These connections lead to other connections, which can eventually lead you to internships and jobs.

It can be difficult to put yourself out there; networking may involve introducing yourself to strangers and speaking about yourself in an experienced and confident—but still humble—way. Yet, you don’t need to be the most charismatic person on earth to be a successful networker, and the benefits of networking are great. The connections you make through networking allow you to gain valuable career information and advice, learn about potential opportunities, and move closer to achieving your career goals. By cultivating your immediate network, you gain access to an extended professional network.

Tell family, friends, other students, and immediate contacts about your career interests. Ask who they know that you might be interested in learning about or meeting if they would introduce you.

Join professional associations in your field and attend conferences. These are excellent networking resources, both online and in-person. Google “professional associations” and the name of your field, and you’ll find many options.  Your professors and teaching assistants can suggest the ones most appropriate for you. Many have student membership prices (but most information is open source).

Contact former employers, direct supervisors and/or internship supervisors. Describe your professional interests and ask if they can suggest contacts.

Attend a lecture or read an article by a faculty member or person in your field.  Contact the person and express your interest in their topic and let the conversation develop.

Reach out to a company or organization directly to ask well-researched and appropriate questions and ask who might be doing the type of work there you are interested in.

How to Start?

If you’ve never networked before and it all sounds rather intimidating, here are some ways you can start slow and lay the groundwork for future success. We call this Passive Networking:

  • Get to know your professors
  • Create an online presence and keep it updated and accurate.
  • Attend employer presentations and career fairs, just to check them out.
  • Start a list of companies and organizations you like, who are doing work you find. interesting. Follow them on social media and learn everything you can about them.
  • Find relevant professional associations and look through their career information. Who are their members?
  • Join UMass Amherst Alumni Groups.
  • Join LinkedIn.
  • Join Connect UMass.
  • Develop your elevator pitch
  • Develop a list of potential contacts.
  • Develop a list of questions to ask those contacts.
  • Keep building your list of employers and contacts of interest.

Once you have identified potential networking contacts, the next step is to speak with them. An informational interview is a good low-pressure way to begin a conversation that can provide you with first-hand information about a career, trends in that field, details on hiring, or insight on the specific skills or qualities that employers are looking for.

There are other ways you can start Active Networking:

  • Tell everyone you know the kinds of professional opportunities you are seeking.
  • Introduce yourself at career fairs and employer events and ask those questions!
  • Learn how to conduct informational interviews and start doing them (see below)
  • Reach out to alums on Connect UMass who are working in fields of interest
  • Reach out to employers you are interested in to seek advice and gain information.