Career Development Center

West Chester University

225 Lawrence Center
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610.436.2501


What is Networking? (Download the Networking handout - PDF)

Networking is a process of building relationships. Successful networking is about building your personal brand, learning about best practices in a career field or industry, and identifying and making meaningful connections with individuals with whom you can engage in mutually beneficial exchanges of information. Ultimately, networking is one of the most effective ways to find a job.

Throughout your career, you want to build relationships so people know who you are, what you are capable of, and what you have to offer. By networking, you will gather information about career fields or industries that interest you, individuals who are industry leaders, and organizations that may be potential employers.

Even when you have a job, you want to always continue networking!  You network to sustain and grow your professional connections and to benefit your existing organization. Networking is NOT only about finding a job; however, the more networking connections you have, the better position you are in for your next career move.

Process of Networking

  • Establish a Goal – Think about what you want and why you want to make a connection.

  • Develop a List of Contacts – Be creative in your brainstorming, start with people you know.

  • Make Initial Contact - Via phone, email, or LinkedIn enables you to plan your first outreach (when you meet someone at an event the initial interaction is different).

  • Prepare for Meeting – Develop a list of questions, conduct some background research.

  • Send a Thank-You Note

  • Follow Up & Take Suggested Action Steps – In addition to a thank-you note, check back in with a contact to update them on how things are progressing or to ask more questions.


Tips for Effective Networking

  • Be clear about your career goals and where you are headed professionally. Start by thinking about what drew you to your field of interest in the first place.

  • What is your style? Are you comfortable approaching people over email, as part of a group, one-on-one? Build on your strengths and challenge yourself to try new ways of reaching out to people.

  • When you attend a meeting or a group, have a goal for talking to at least three people before the end of the night.

  • Be genuine. Why should someone help you out? What do you have to offer them in return for their time and energy spent on you?

  • Be respectful of other people's time . Be sure to send a 'thank you' for referrals or any time a contact invests in you. Ask if it is okay to send a copy of your resume as a follow-up to your conversation.

  • Observe or talk to people who you think are great at networking and think about what skills or qualities they possess. Consider adapting their style to work for you!

  • Ask for business cards; make a note on the back to jog your memory about the person or event where you met. Use a professional networking site such as LinkedIn. Tips for Creating a Professional LinkedIn Profile and How to Network Professionally Online.

  • Don't get discouraged. If someone says that they don't know of anything pertinent to your current goals or don’t have any current opportunities to share, ask them when might be a better time to contact them to discuss possibilities.

  • DON'T STOP NETWORKING just because you are not job searching or are happy in your current job! It takes work to maintain relationships and it is easier to do that when you are not asking for help.


Who to Contact – Where to Make Networking Connections

  • Friends of family members, family members of friends

  • Professors and administrators on campus (e.g., Student Affairs staff, advisors)

  • Current or past supervisors from your work or volunteer experiences

  • Alumni: WCU Online Community, LinkedIn

  • Alumni from your college student organizations (fraternity, sorority, athletic team, etc.)

  • Professional associations

  • Career events and programs (alumni are welcome to attend many campus events)

  • Day-to-day (e.g. on the train, via a place of worship, community centers)


How to Connect – How to Approach People

There are numerous options for connecting with people: phone, email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.! What is the best way to reach out? There is no one right answer other than, “It depends.

  • You will have the best success if you do some advance research.  If a friend suggests you contact someone, ask your friend if the individual is most accessible by phone or email; also ask about what this person does, how long they have been in the role, and what types of questions this individual might best address. Look at the Web site of the company/organization where the person works to learn more before you make contact.
  • Most people opt first to send an email of introduction.  In the email, explain your interest in the person’s career field or company as well as your interest in talking with her/him about it. If you were personally referred, mention who referred you.  Write that you plan to follow up with a telephone call in the next few days to inquire about the possibility of meeting.
  • If you find the name of a person to contact but were not directly referred to them by someone you know, mention how you came across this person’s information: “I read an article recently in The Daily Local that talked about your business in West Chester.  I found your new venture intriguing as it is similar to my future goals, so I am writing to see if we might speak some time?”
  • Before making your phone call, have a clear idea of what you want to say.

“Hello. My name is Jane Doe. I am graduate of West Chester University and I sent you an email a couple of days ago. I got your name from Dr. Jane Smith, who suggested you would be a good person to ask for advice. I was hoping we might get together for a short meeting sometime soon. I would like to speak to you about making a transition into the advertising field and the typical entry-points into an organization such as yours.” (adapted from The Smart Woman’s Guide to Interviewing and Salary Negotiation, p.44)

  • If the individual declines your request, offer a gracious and polite, “Thank you for your time. I appreciate you taking my call.” And then simply move on to the next person you would like to try to contact.


Sample Networking / Informational Interview Questions

  • How did you choose this career field?

  • What types of experiences are essential to be successful in this field?

  • What are typical entry-level opportunities in this field?

  • Describe a typical work week and a typical day.

  • How would you define the culture of your office? Is that common throughout the industry?

  • What is the organizational structure of your department/company?

  • What are the toughest problems you must deal with?

  • What is the most rewarding part of your job?

  • What obligations at work affect your personal time?

  • Tell me about the growth of this career field – where is it going?

  • What different types of work can you do long term with this background?

  • How do people find out about job vacancies in this field?

  • How does this organization compare/differ with its competitors?

  • What is a reasonable salary range for these positions?

  • Can you recommend organizations for me to research further?

  • Is there a person within this organization that I should contact to pursue employment?

  • May I use your name when I contact them?

"How to Become a Dynamic Networker"  ~ VIDEO ~

  • In this 20-minute video, learn the do’s and don’ts to dynamic networking and how to examine, prepare, and assess your conversations.  See if you have what it takes to become a dynamic networker and apply what you learn daily!