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Networking Do's & Don'ts

Networking is the process of making connections with others and then using those connections to manage your career and enhance the relationships. There are so many great reasons to network including the opportunities to gain information about an industry, organization, or specific position, to explore potential job prospects, to meet others with similar interests, and to receive career advice. Friends, family, colleagues, former employers, professional associations, and alumni groups are all examples of communities in which you can network. Networking can take many forms including in-person conversations, phone calls, email correspondence, informational interviewing, and even virtual connections on networking websites. Networking preparation is similar to interview preparation in many ways. Prior to networking, it’s important to reflect on your specific interests, skills, and experiences. In addition, it’s a good idea to do some research on the field, position, or person with whom you want to engage. Finally, be sure to set some specific goals that you can keep in mind as you network. Now that you know the basics, see below for additional tips.

  • DO know what you are looking for. Are you networking in an effort to get advice, learn about an organization or industry, reach other contacts, or find alternative job opportunities?
  • DO think of everyone you meet in all different types of settings as potential networking contacts. It’s important to act professionally since you never know who might share your interests or has experience accomplishing your career goals
  • DO make use of networking websites and databases such as LinkedIn
  • DO keep a record of the all individuals you have networked with that includes their contact information, a description of their work, and notes about your interactions
  • DO show appreciation. Send a thank you message to anyone who has taken the time to speak with you
  • DO keep in touch with people with whom you’ve connected to an appropriate degree by asking a follow-up question or simply checking in by phone, email, or in person
  • DON’T directly ask for a job, especially if the networking relationship is new. If you are interested in job opportunities, find more subtle ways to express your interest and promote your personal brand
  • DON’T be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know. While having a prior connection with someone makes it more likely that they’ll speak with you, there are also professionals who will be happy to talk with anyone who expresses a genuine interest in what they do
  • DON’T get discouraged. Networking is a skill that gets easier as you make more connections and practice. Remember that the benefits of networking are often not immediate. Rather, your connections will likely come in handy when you decide that a career move is in your best interest, when you are looking to develop a new skill, or when you are in need of work-related advice

Partly adapted from the University of Richmond Alumni & Career Services' networking resource