What is Networking?
Networking can be defined as the process of "interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts" (Merriam Webster). People network to gather information and build relationships. It doesn’t have to be a scary process; it is not designed for you to ask for a job or an internship. Networking is one of the top ways that individuals learn about career paths and industries, build relationships in those industries, and hopefully learn of new job opportunities. It is a critical part of the search process.
Connecting with Peers & Alumni
These platforms allow you to connect and message peers, alumni, or other people in the industry of interest.
- GW Career Connect: GW’s student-to-alumni networking platform. This is a place where people have volunteered to discuss career paths with GW students and alumni. It’s one of the best places to find your support network and build relationships
- LinkedIn: A professional networking site that provides a way for you to connect with people, information, internships/jobs, and more.
- Handshake: Connect with your peers across the nation or filter specifically on GW students
- Reaching out to professionals
In your short message, there are key things to include or remember in your outreach to contacts:
- Bridge: Let them know how you found them and identify what you have in common (such as GW or an experience like student activity); mention any personal contact or referral.
- State your Case: Clearly share why you’re reaching out. Tell the reader what you’d like to discuss.
- Be Open-minded: When speaking to them, ask for suggestions, information, guidance, and advice; allow them to express their opinion, criticize, and react.
- Remove Pressure: Do not put pressure on your contact to have a position for you.
- Action Statement: Where/when possible, have a closing sentence that will allow you to initiate follow-up steps (e.g., reaching out again, emailing with more questions).
- How to start networking
An informational interview is a conversation with a professional in an industry, job role, or working for an employer you’re interested in. It’s an interview that you initiate to learn about their story and how they navigated the field.
- Before the interview, know what you want to learn by researching organizations or positions in your field that interest you. Identify individuals at the companies that you would be interested in speaking with.
- Set up the interview by sending a professionally written email requesting an informational interview.
- During the conversation, restate your purpose for meeting them and what information you want to learn. Request referrals to other people you can talk to. This is information-gathering, so do not ask for an internship or job opportunity.
- After the conversation, send a thank you note within 24 hours, including something specific you learned from talking with the individual. Update the individual periodically in 4-6 months if you want to maintain contact with them.
Here are some question suggestions:
Questions about them and their background
- What did you do your senior year?
- What did you do right after undergrad?
- How did your academic coursework help you in the job search?
Questions about the industry, the employer, the job
- What does an average week look like in this job?
- What’s an industry trend you’re excited about?
- What do you love most about working here?
- What is most challenging about working in this industry? Is a master’s degree required?
Advice and next steps for you
- Who else should I be speaking with? Can you please put me in touch with them?
- What other organizations are doing similar things that I should look into?
- Are there specific job search engines I should be using?
- What advice do you have for people navigating this field?
- Elevator Pitch
Also called a professional pitch, an elevator pitch is a short description of your interests, skills, and experiences. It is meant to be given in 60 seconds or about the length of an elevator ride. The Pitch is a way to connect with employers, start an informational interview, connect with people at a networking event, party, or conference, or introducing yourself to someone important that you meet.
It has four main parts:
- Introduction: Name, class year, major, your interests and/or interests for this conversation
- Selling Points: skills and example of where you have used skills, top accomplishments, leadership activities, class projects
- The Ask: What are you hoping to ask or gain from the interaction?
- Closing: Anything else you wish to ask or request, thank them for their time, ask for their business cards, confirm any next steps