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Networking: What is it?

Updated: May 6, 2021

What is networking?

Networking is nothing more than a fancy way of saying, “talking to people.” And at the same time, it is the beginning of a critical, life-long skill that everyone should practice: relationship building. Your network is something you will constantly and consistently build and develop throughout your professional career. Start now! Understand that everyone you meet is a potential relationship worth investing in.

Despite the emphasis placed on it, networking remains a misunderstood concept. It is not a transaction; it is an important way to exchange information, learn about someone else and share about yourself. And, it takes time. Sometimes these relationships don’t “produce” overnight; the benefits of these relationships may take weeks, months or years.

The overall benefit—a wide range of relationships—will always serve you both personally and professionally. There is power in relationships that extends beyond a generic introduction. When you create connections based on shared interests and goals, you’ll be more successful, because people want to work with people they know and like.

EXAMPLE: Lisa Schiffman, Global Leader and Founder, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women studied what makes global entrepreneurs so successful and identified a “ripple effect” of ways that women entrepreneurs help each other succeed, rather than competing. For example, 21% of study participants have gone into business together, and many have invested in each other’s companies.

Developing a network

Developing a network is easy. In fact you already have one! Anyone you have ever met is a potential contact.

  • Family and relatives, neighbors, friends, classmates

  • Faculty, former teachers, coaches

  • Previous employers, co-workers

  • Memberships of organizations (professional

  • associations or social clubs)

  • Volunteer Organizations

  • Faith communities

  • School alumni

How to initiate contact to network

Call or write an email message introducing yourself with your elevator pitch. Indicate how you identified them as a source of information and that you are looking for career related guidance and information. Do not include your resume. Request a convenient time (for them!) to have a conversation.

How to use your network

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You may meet dozens of people during any given week, but if someone makes an impression on you, and vice versa, you won’t be forgotten to one another.

Connections are created through shared experiences. Tosca DiMatteo, Senior Director at Univision, explains that when she was making a pivotal career move, she sought out an employee from her target company at a conference. After meeting him in person and genuinely liking him, she continued to follow up every few months and developed a good rapport. Eventually, DiMatteo’s contact passed her resume along for her dream job, which she was ultimately offered. “He was willing to make the effort to connect me with the right people when the time came because I was able to find authentic opportunities to connect and exchange value, such as through sharing articles he found relevant,” says DiMatteo.

Don’t just rely on social media to grow your relationships. Connect by phone and spend time in person. No matter what life stage you’re in, make it a priority to spend time building relationships.

Who do you know? This is the key question. Sure, all of your time, effort and money spent on your degree is important. However, it is who you know that can help you get your foot in the door, or refer you to someone that can be helpful to you (or hire you!). Use your networking to uncover the hidden job market!

The “Pie” below is a visual representation of your current network. Fill in names of people that you know in the appropriate “slice.” Whenever you are looking to start a new job or project, or are looking for support or advice, your diagram will help you identify, plan and implement your networking approach.

Download the pie by clicking the button below.

Networking pie
Download PDF • 139KB

A networking pie chart. Clockwise: Community/faith based organization. Organizations. Classmates. Coworkers. Advisors/Faculty. Alumni. Friends. Family. At the center is a circle with "You" in it.

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