Wiktionary defines Networking as "the act of meeting new people in a business or social context." but it can also help build up your knowledge of different careers and even find you a job.

Why do I need to network?
Networking is an essential skill to learn. It can help build up your knowledge of different careers and even find you a job. Beyond this, it is an important skill that will help you manage your career in the future. Many jobs require the use of a professional network and employers value this skill in graduates.You can use your network to talk to people about their jobs. This can be a great help to you in deciding on a career. By interviewing people doing work that you find interesting, you can get a specific, personal and up-to-date view. Observing people in their workplace is the most effective way to find out whether you would like the job or not.

The insight you get from this kind of networking makes it easier for you to explore a range of jobs and choose between options. In turn this will help you to be more convincing in your applications and interviews. Did you know only about a third of job vacancies get advertised through traditional media? Using networking techniques, you can reveal the secrets of the hidden job market.

Getting started

  • To find out about a career in personnel by talking to a family friend who works as a human resources manager in a local business.
  • To get advice on your CV from somebody already in the job you are seeking.
  • To find out if there are any work experience opportunities in chemical engineering.
  • To find a graduate position.
Some of the people you meet along the way may provide support to you as well as advice and information. Sometimes you will hear people refer to their mentor or coach. Remember that some people in your network may take on this role for you. If they do, you will find them an invaluable help in your move from your current situation to your new career.

Who can help me?
It’s amazing how many useful people you know already - and how many they know.
  • List family, friends, colleagues and contacts past and present. What do your friends’ parents and siblings do for a living?
  • Think creatively about past and present contacts such as lecturers, old school contacts, people you know in your community. If they can’t help, ask if they know someone who can.
  • Check out alumni contacts through your School or directly with employers.
  • Add to the list by thinking of people both locally and nationally who you have read about or seen in the media.
  • Keep your list up-to-date and look for new contacts.
  • Look for opportunities to network such as local events and conferences.
  • Remember the right people (those who can make a difference to your career) come in many different guises, so always keep on the look-out.
  • Some occupational areas have professional bodies (e.g. The Chartered Institute for IT, Royal Society of Chemistry). Many of these have regional and national activities which give you the opportunity to meet and learn from others who work in that sector.
What do I want to achieve?
Having selected someone to approach, start with the end in mind. Think about the outcome of the meeting. Do you want to find out what a job is like? Do you want to find out whether they have any work experience opportunities? Go back to ‘Why do I need a network?’
  • Start by thinking about how they may benefit from speaking to you. (e.g. massage their ego, help them reflect, enable them to pass on their learning).
  • Find out as much as you can about their background using other contacts.
  • Map out your key questions. Here are some examples:
    • Can you describe a typical day?
    • What do you enjoy most/least about your work?
    • Tell me about your career path and has it been typical?
    • What skills, qualifications and experience will I need?
    • Are there any barriers you have overcome and how?
    • How is the job changing?
    • What are the major challenges facing your organisation?
    • Could you suggest any resources that would help me find out more about this work?
    • What sort of work experience do you think would help me break into this field?
    • Would you mind giving me some feedback on my CV?
    • Is there anyone else you think I should talk to?

How am I going to make contact?
This is the scary bit and you may like to start with someone nonthreatening such as a relative, a Nottingham alumnus or obtain a referral from a mutual friend. When making the contact:
  • Have a clear agenda.
  • Obtain a referral “James Smith suggested I speak to you”.
  • Use subtle flattery “You’re an ideal person to speak to because…”.
  • Be brief and professional “I just need 20 minutes”.
  • Always keep an open door: “I see you’re really busy. Can I contact you next week?”.
  • Use an approach you find comfortable – letter, fax or email if you prefer them to face-to-face.
  • Always write and thank people.
What happens if they say no?
  • Don’t take it personally – it’s always likely and no harm is done.
  • Understand why you failed – and address it.
  • Spend time with positive people – they’ll keep you going.
  • Stick at it – really important people may take several attempts.
How do I maintain my network?
  • Take time to build trust, there are no quick-fix solutions.
  • Remember it’s two-way – you’re part of their network too.
  • Keep in touch as people’s lives change (ring, write, email).
  • Identify personal coaches or mentors who you can trust to guide and support you.
  • Take risks and step out of your comfort zone.
  • Keep developing your networking skills (phone technique etc).
Benefits of networking
Finding the right match between your own skills, interests and motivations and a job can be hard work and filled with uncertainty. Through networking you collect information about jobs and this enables you to make more informed decisions. Equally, using networking to identify potential employers is a sound strategy because you are taking control of your job hunting. This is more proactive in comparison to passively waiting for an advertised job or sending off applications speculatively to potential employers.



You may get a question like this in an application form or interview around the topic of Networking. Think about what an employer may be looking for in your answer and complete the questions below on your assessment form.

  • What steps do you take to build your professional network?
  • Describe a time when you have had to use a new contact, what did you use them for and what was the end result?

Networking (Careers Service, The University of Manchester)
Networking (Prospects)
5 Steps to build your network (Graduate Recruitment Bureau)
Networking Resources (Careers and Employability Centre, Loughborough University)
Networking Skills Video (CareerPlayer)

This page uses material from the Wiktionary page "networking", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0
This page uses an image from the Open Clip Art Library page "Marqueur / Marker", which is available under the CC0 PD Dedication