Networking Step by Step
Why Would Anyone Want to Network with a Student?
People like to help people, especially if they have common interests (major/career field) or affiliations (family, friends, Cornell). People like to talk about themselves, their career development, and their accomplishments. They also understand that you may be in a position to help them in the future even if you are not now.
LinkedIn and Virtual Networking
LinkedIn is a social network designed for career and business professionals to connect. LinkedIn is also a valuable resource for finding jobs, exploring careers, and connecting with Cornell University Alumni. You also have access to thousands of online courses via LinkedIn Learning. If you haven’t created a LinkedIn profile, or you are looking for strategies to update and improve your profile, following influencers and ideal for building connections for freelance work, a customer base, potential partners, or simply to keep your job prospects open. Use the Networking Module to explore more.
Did you know Career Services does LinkedIn profile reviews? We can give you feedback for how to enhance your profile or use little-known features of LinkedIn. Click the red "Make an Appointment" box to schedule.
Cornell’s Professional Networking platform connects you with Cornell Alumni and your community to help you achieve your personal, academic, and professional goals.
Virtual vs. In Person Interactions
It’s important to develop both your in-person and online communication skills. Many interactions will begin with a well-written e-mail or LinkedIn message, but even in a virtual world, it’s important to practice your in-person communication skills. Finding common ground comes from having a conversation or discussion on the phone, via webchat platforms like zoom, or in person. As you build your online presence, be sure to protect your professional identity online; make sure your status updates, photos, and blogs present the professional image you want to convey to potential employers and contacts.It’s also important to select a professional screen name, profile picture and strategy for every platform where you have an online presence.
Networking: Step by Step
The Canvas module on Networking will help you build lists of your contacts and explain many frequently asked questions. Here are some steps to get you started.
Create a Contact List. Networking opportunities occur on a daily basis and can include a brief conversation with someone on an elevator to an arranged meeting with a professional. Begin by identifying all the people whom you come in contact with through your activities. (These can include: friends, family members, advisors, faculty, club/organization members and more!)
- Seek Opportunities to Meet People and Expand Your Network. You initiate conversations with others each day; whether in the elevator, waiting in line, riding on the bus, or when they are seated near you at meals or in class. These interactions can turn from random meetings, to acquaintances, to friends and/or contacts. There are also many events sponsored by Cornell Career Services (CCS) to foster networking connections with staff, alumni, employers and fellow students. Use resources like Cornell Handshake to take advantage of the workshops, career fairs, alumni panels/presentations, and other in-person and virtual networking events. Other resources like LinkedIn and CUeLINKS can expand your virtual connections.
- Set Goals. Before you contact anyone, think about why you are connecting, and what you want to learn. Are you looking for information about different careers so you can choose your career path? Or are you looking for people working in a specific organization or career field to gain more information for your job search? Or are you seeking a specific job (e.g., government speech writing) or are you wondering how you might apply a particular skill set (e.g., foreign language skills)? Be mindful of your time and remember that quality versus quantity is important.
- Research and Prepare Questions. Many networking opportunities will be planned and you have the opportunity to research the company, person, or event. In these situations, Identify and describe your interests, goals, and skills so you can develop questions and your contacts can provide you with relevant advice or refer you to a useful contact or resource. These interactions whether virtual or in person could last minutes to hours, so it’s helpful to have questions prepared to make the most of the informational interviews. More information and sample questions and templates can be found using Canvas pages on networking and informational interviewing.
- Develop Your Personal (or Elevator) Pitch. Your self-introduction is often called an “elevator pitch” or “elevator pitch,” because you should imagine that you are stuck in an elevator with someone and you need to tell them about yourself and pique their interest before they get off. Think about how you can use this short period of time to not only introduce yourself but also convey something about who you are, what you do, and what you offer.
- Follow Up and Make the Second Impression. It is critical that you respond to follow-up messages from your new contacts. Do not simply ignore a message because you are “busy.” Your professional contacts are also extremely busy, and they have taken time for you! Through continued active communication, such as an email when you learn something new related to your conversation, or when you come across something that may be helpful to that contact’s needs/career, or when you make a decision about your next steps (accept a new job, move to a new city, graduate from college, begin a new search, etc.), you are maintaining and building your connection.
- Maintain Connections. Networking is an ongoing process and you will continue to develop skills for keeping in touch with established contacts and reaching out to new ones.
- Immediately After The Interaction. Take a minute after your conversation to make a few notations about the conversation and the person on their business card. Follow through with any commitments you made during the meeting and prepare and send a brief thank you (e-mail or hand written note) acknowledging that the information the interview gave you is important.
- Evaluate the Conversation/Event. Reflect on the conversation/event to determine what you learned from this interaction. Did it meet your goals and objectives? Did you come away with answers to most of your questions? Did you get additional contact names? Did you make yourself memorable (in a positive way)?
- Tracking Information and Contacts. Create a system for tracking your contacts, and enter business card/contact information into a system. Electronic systems can work well, and these are some areas you want to consider such as Contact name, position/title, what was discussed, and when you plan to follow up. You may also include additional contacts or resources (e.g. articles, classes, books, websites, events) your connections share with you. If you include reminders to alert you when you should reach out to your contacts again, you are more likely to keep in touch.