Networking Tips

Especially during periods of career transition, networking is one of the most powerful career development strategies. You can use it to:

  • Grow and sustain contacts that can help you advance your career interests
  • Showcase your skills to potential employers and other professionals
  • Learn more about career options, industry trends and organizations
  • Identify employment opportunities

Below is advice on common networking topics. 

Identify Existing Contacts

The great thing about building your network is that you already have somewhere to start. Here's how to grow your roster of professional contacts.

Start with people you know.

Possible guides in your job search are all around you. Let them know what you’re looking for and be as specific as possible. Look to:

  • Colleagues
  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Past professors and teachers
  • Former coaches
  • Work supervisors
  • Neighbors
  • Princeton alumni

As a Princeton alum, you have an incredible resource around the world in the form of thousands of other alumni. Find them and connect through:

  • TigerNet: This searchable directory allows you to look up classmates and other fellow Princetonians by performing a variety of customized searches. You will also find career-focused discussion groups.
  • LinkedIn Alumni Search Tools: Available for anyone with a LinkedIn account, this tool helps you discover where alumni work and their paths after Princeton.

Research events & associations.

Conferences and career fairs are ideal networking events. You may be able to find job leads, and meet people who will talk with you about the industry or profession. Professional associations are also a good way of exploring your options and making contacts.

Make New Contacts

Most people are happy to assist others in their career search when they have the time.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

  • If you are courteous, no harm is done in making the effort to contact someone.
  • Share your desire for insight, but don't ask directly for job help. Don't send a resume at first.
  • Be patient, yet persistent. If you do not hear back after two weeks, reiterate your original message and ask if it is preferable to make contact at another time.

Use your first communication to establish common interest

  • Explain where you found them and briefly share details about yourself.
  • Express your interest in their background, position or organization.
  • Be detailed about what kind of help you might like. For example:
    • “More information about a career in R&D”
    • “Skills needed for a successful career in environmental consulting”
    • “Job resources for a particular geographic area”
Gain Insight and Opportunity

As you get to know a new contact, it's all about dialogue, ideally in person. Prepare to gain as much information as possible.

Be considerate of your contact’s time

  • Dress appropriately and be on time. Bring your resume just in case they ask for it.
  • Define what you’d like to know and write a list before the meeting to use as a guide for yourself to make the most out of the opportunity.
  • Avoid wasting time on details that you can already find online.

Keep the focus on them, at first.

  • Not sure what to say? Liken the experience to an informational interview.
  • Early on, engage the contact in sharing their experiences.
  • Once you establish rapport, seek advice and connect it to your goals.
Questions to Ask

The more preparation you do in advance of a meeting with a new contact, the more smoothly it will go. Consider these questions as starters, and supplement them with others based on your research into a field. Depending on your career path and experience, your questions may be more or less specific.

A Day in the Life

  • How did you enter this field?
  • What has your career path been like?
  • Do you use any of your graduate training in your job, and if so, how?
  • On a typical day (or week) in this position, what do you do?
  • What are the toughest problems you have to deal with?
  • What is the most rewarding part of your job?
  • If you were to leave this kind of work, what would drive you away?
  • Does your work become more interesting as you stay longer?
  • If things develop as you would like, what does the future hold for your career?

Trends and Insights

  • Is there a demand for new talent in this occupation?
  • How do you see this field changing in the future?
  • What opportunities for advancement are there?
  • Which professional journals and organizations cover this field?
  • Based on my education, skills and experience, what other fields would you suggest I research further before making a final decision?

Company-specific Questions

  • What is the average length of time that employees stay with the organization?
  • What type of formal or on-the-job training does the organization provide?
  • How does the organization compare/differ with its competitors?

Qualifications

  • What kinds of prior experience are absolutely essential?
  • What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?
  • What is your opinion of my background and resume? Do you see any problem areas or weaknesses?
  • Who do you know that might be willing to speak with me as well? May I use your name when contacting him/her?

Opportunities

  • Which opportunities offer the most ability to learn a great deal?
  • What is the typical salary range for these positions?
  • How do people find out about these jobs?
Take the Next Step

Seek additional contacts

  • Do not hesitate to ask someone if they know anyone they recommend to contact. Seek permission to use your initial contact's name when getting in touch with others.
  • Continue researching careers and meeting multiple people; no one person is an authority.
  • If you are given names, follow-up as soon as possible.

Send a thank-you note and keep track of contacts

  • A personalized thank you note goes a long way.
  • Share progress that is a result of something they’ve recommended.
  • Stay connected; you may be colleagues or in a position to help them later.
  • Use LinkedIn or another site to manage contacts.