What is Networking?

Networking is the process of initiating a conversation with someone who's in a career path that you're interested in. The conversations can range from talking about work-life balance or advice on how to break into a certain field to learning about your connection's career path.

The objective of the networking conversations is to learn more about the career you're interested in exploring, information about required skills, asking about potential internship or job opportunities, and organizational culture of a workplace. 

Be Brave 

Although networking is one of the most successful ways to find a job or internship, it can often seem intimidating. Most college students feel anxious about the thought of having a conversation about their career with someone they don't know personally.

One reason why this happens is because students are hesitant to share the struggles of their career exploration. It's important to note that everyone starts from somewhere and you're not expected to have a definitive plan for your career. Exploring your career interests is a slow process and you'll find that people in the industry are always happy to help. They were once in the same shoes as you!

You may be worried that people won't be willing to help or that your request for a conversation is unwelcome. Keep in mind that networking is a common practice and so most people you'll reach out to have done the same with others. Not only that, people usually feel good about helping! However, it's important to keep in mind that not everyone will respond and that has nothing to do with you. They might simply not have the bandwidth to help when you ask.

Building Your Network

Networking is simply making contacts, creating alliances, building supportive contacts, and seeking out other professionals within your field of interest. But who are these contacts?

Building a network of connections takes some time and planning. Once you have explored career options that you're interested in, begin planning who to create connections with.  Always start from the people closest to you. Here are some ideas:

  • Friends & Family
  • Neighbors
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Classmates & Alumni
  • Advisors
  • Student organization members
  • Social media contacts
  • Co-workers
  • Volunteer coordinators
  • Supervisors

Determine your goal for making the connection.  Do you want to learn more about an industry or job function? Do you want to meet new people in a professional field? Are you following-up on an application you submitted? Answering these questions will help give focus to your networking strategy and help you to identify the right people to connect with. Once you reach out to someone, you can always reach out to them again for an introduction to someone else in their circle if needed. This is how you expand your network!

Career Conversations

Always remember, career-related conversations are not job interviews. Think of it of a casual conversation where you talk about your career interests, tips on breaking into a field, or any other career advice you want. Have some questions prepared, but also go with the flow of the conversation and be as curious as possible about their experiences and advice.

The biggest concern for most students is how to ask about internship or job opportunities at their contact's organization. Do not be afraid to ask! While you should be cautious of approaching the subject, you should not hesitate to make a judgement based on the conversation. If the conversation went well, they'd be more than happy to give you a referral. Just make sure that you ask them at the end of the conversation. Learn more about the different ways to find contacts and how to have a career conversation with our guide.

LinkedIn and Personal Branding 

Personal branding differentiates you among your competition. It helps communicate your values, strengths, abilities, and beliefs. You should develop a brand that is rooted in your personal values, strengths, and skills. This isn't something you can wish to be true about yourself; it's actually what is true about yourself. Everyone has marketable skills; you just need to identify yours and communicate them to the world. Some fields like computer science or design may utilize personal websites for this purpose. There are a million templates out there to choose from, such as Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, or create one from scratch - it's your choice! 

To get started, ask yourself: Who am I? What are my strengths? How am I different than others in a positive way? Come in and talk with a Career Coach about your strategy to further develop your strengths. Think about how this message could be translated into images, logos, written communication, and face-to-face introductions. In fact, think of yourself as a business. Logos, images, and external communication let others know what the company does and what matters to the company. Think of yourself as CEO, what do you want to tell the world about what you do and what matters to you?

While thinking about personal branding, also consider establishing a professional online image to enhance your desirability to employers. Keep in mind that potential employers can view pictures, videos, comments, and tweets that are shared in a public online setting, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, blog sites, etc. Keep these sites free of inappropriate communications to protect your professional image with current and future employers.

With the rise of social media today, LinkedIn is a great platform to put your foot forward. Use our resource to learn how to make the most of it:

Platforms for Networking

Networking can take place anywhere!  You can network in person, online, and over the phone.  Take advantage of opportunities like career fairs, employer info sessions, and other events to meet directly with employers.  Network with peers in your classes, student organizations, and professional associations.  Networking is an active practice that requires you to take initiative!

Another way of increasing your network size outside your family and friends is to reach out to mutual friends. Reach out to your family members and friends and let them about your career exploration and ask them if they know people who might be able to help them out.

Another effective way to network is to utilize UT’s resources. You can reach out to UT professors and set up coffee chats. Joining clubs is a great way to form connections since you naturally get them through shared experiences. The method that has the best reach to forming connections is using the LinkedIn Alumni Finder.  UT Alumni are extremely delighted to help current Longhorns.


Speaking of LinkedIn, we recommend LinkedIn to be one of your primary platforms for networking due to its popularity. Not only will you find a ton of active people from the industry on the platform but it has been found that over 87% of the employers use LinkedIn for hiring processes. Utilize the masterclass below, free to all UT students and alumni, to learn how to make the most of the platform. Note that you need to create a profile on LinkedIn for you to be able to use it fully - read through the guide linked in the previous section!

Other Platforms

In addition to social media platforms like LinkedIn, you can visit networking events happening within your area through products like MeetUp or opt for conferences relevant to your field.

Maintain your Network

Once you've established a connection through a career conversation, it's important to maintain your new professional relationship.  You can do this by:

  • Sending a thank you message after each networking event or meeting. Additionally, thank any relevant connections once you have accepted a position.
  • Update your contacts on your progress every few months, or as things happen.
  • Reach out if you hear about their individual or company's success by congratulating them.
  • Check to see if they will be attending conferences or industry events.
  • Email articles or interest, holiday/birthday cards, or any other non-transactional communications.

The more positive interactions you have with your connections, the more they'll be willing to assist you!

Questions? Want Your Profile Reviewed?

Make an Appointment with a CNS Career Coach