Networking Guide

What Is Networking and Why Is It Important?

Networking is connecting with people, informally or formally. The connections you form over time become your “network.” Networking is a key opportunity to cultivate relationships, advance your knowledge in a particular field, and build a cohort of individuals that share similar professional interests. As a student, you are already networking when you ask about classes, extracurriculars, etc. In today’s job market, networking has become increasingly important. Individuals are more successful entering a field if they have people to support them. 

Determining Who to Network With

As a Dartmouth student, you have access to a pre-existing network of thousands of current students and alumni. Your network includes people you interact with everyday – friends, professors, faculty, and staff. Additional channels to grow your network include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Handshake (CPD Career Platform with Employer and Student Connections)
  • Dartmouth Connect
  • Other Social Media Platforms 
  • Professional Associations
  • Friends of Friends

Your network can include people at all career levels – and from many different backgrounds. Just as your peers can be an invaluable source of advice for courses and student organizations, your friends can also help you navigate professional challenges. People one to five years ahead of you can provide insight into what worked and didn’t work for building their careers. People who are well-established and in the middle of their career can serve as mentors and be especially helpful with tips on job search.

In his book Who’s Got Your Back, the author Keith Ferrazzi recommends cultivating a network of peers (he calls these lifelines), mentors (those who can serve as role models and coach you) and heroes (people who inspire you – and who you may or may not ever meet in person).

Connecting with more people increases your odds of learning about opportunities that interest you. This means you should cast your net wide. Start with the people that you have access to at Dartmouth – classmates, teammates, faculty, and alumni; but do not limit your network to current colleagues. You can also reconnect with past employers, teachers, or colleagues to see if those conversations can lead you to new connections. You never know who is connected to the people in your network.

Identifying How to Grow Your Network

  1. If you are hoping to learn more about a field, identify a range of professionals, from current interns and recent graduates, to seasoned professionals. A diverse set of contacts will give you a depth and breadth of knowledge, advice, and experience levels. 
  2. If your end goal is finding an internship or entry-level position, identify ahead of time what type of organizations interest you most. Remember, be open to new and varying opportunities; you do not want to overly limit yourself early on in the process. 

Methods of Connecting

MethodLocation or PlatformTips
In personOccurs when the people involved are in the same physical space. It can be intentional or impromptu.Remember that your nonverbal language speaks volume:  93% of all communication is non-verbal. Read the room: go with the pacing and tone the other person adopts.
Online CommunicationEmail and/or messaging through social media, (Handshake, LinkedIn, Dartmouth Connect, Facebook, etc.)Choose your words carefully – remember you do not have the benefit of body language or tone of voice.
Virtual MeetingZoom, Google Meet, or MS TeamsDress somewhat formally. If possible, try to find a quiet location with a non-distracting background.

Before You Reach Out to an Individual 

  1. Identify your purpose and establish your goals 

Here are some sample reasons:

AppropriateInappropriate as a first conversation
Learning about an industry or a career fieldAsking for a job or opportunity
Hearing about someone else’s personal experienceAsking to use someone’s name as a “source of referral”
Asking for advice and best practices for getting startedAsking for a recommendation from someone you don’t know well
Getting advice on pursuing a long-term goal, (e.g. careers that involve graduate school)Asking the contact to edit your resume or cover letter
Firm-specific hiring processes or workplace cultureRequests that place an inordinate burden on the other party, (e.g. “I’m not sure what to ask—maybe you can just tell me about your job?”)
Insight into a specific hiring opportunity
Requests for suggested contacts

Tip: It is your responsibility to initiate contact, follow up, and maintain the relationship after your first conversation. Try not to look at networking as a one-time transaction – instead think of it as a practice in which you are cultivating relationships.

  1. Time your approach

The best time to start networking is before you need your networking relationships – e.g. if you are seeking an internship, start more than 10 days before your first application is due. The earlier you start networking, the better. Do not make last minute requests.

Appropriate RequestInappropriate Request
Would you have 15 minutes next week or later this month to talk?Asking to meet the next day
Emailing potential contactCold calling contact outside of business hours
  1. Prepare

Before you reach out to people in your field of interest, develop a summary of: who you are, how you would describe yourself in an initial introduction (interests, skills, personality, and values), and why you are interested in X field or Y organization. Here are some additional steps you can take:

  1. Create or update your resume – Utilize the Dartmouth Resume Guide to create, or update, your resume to highlight your most current experiences and skill competencies. 
  2. Read about the field/industry – Gain some basic knowledge on industry trends, recent news/changes, and the organization where your contact works. You want to show an initial understanding of the field. Some resources to learn more about organizations and industry areas are:
    1. Glassdoor.com 
    2. Dartmouth Undergraduate Job Hunting Guide
      1. Organizations: D&B Hoovers (Use OneStop Report for Organization Reports), Orbis, PrivCo 
      2. Industries: IBISWorld, BCC Research (growing industries), Technavio (Tech)
    3. Organization websites (check About Us, News, Press Releases, etc.)
  1. Develop questions

Develop 8 – 10 questions before your conversation. Remember, do not ask questions that can be easily answered through your online research, e.g. what is the structure of your organization, if they have their organization chart online. For guidance on informational interview questions, read Networking Outreach Templates and Sample Questions

During the Conversation with a Person in Your Network

Once you have prepared for the discussion, you are ready to have a networking conversation. Aim for your conversations to be  “transformational,” not “transactional.” The focus of the conversation is to gather information and insights, not to ask for a job or internship. That type of “transactional” approach is off-putting to the recipient. The reality is: if the contact person has a job or internship to offer, they will likely bring it up during the conversation.

General Principles

There is no need to be intimidated by networking. You already do it on a daily basis. When you have conversations with your peers regarding class recommendations and club activities, or when you ask professors, academic advisors, and coaches for advice, you are networking! 

While reaching out to someone you do not have a ready-made connection with can sound intimidating, these conversations and exchanges are not much different from what you already do naturally. Here are five key principles to keep in mind when networking for careers or future-oriented opportunities:

  1. You set the agenda.  Your role in the conversation is to introduce yourself, set the stage, and ask questions. The other party may be supplying most of the content (in the form of responses to questions, suggestions, and narratives about their expertise), but you are responsible for the bulk of the process (this can include a self-introduction, a statement of purpose, thoughtful questions, and wrap-up/next steps). 
  2. Listen more than you talk. Follow the 80/20 rule: listen about 80% of the time, and speak 20% of the time. The exact ratio will vary depending on the conversation, but keep in mind that you should listen more than you speak. 
  3. Think of it as a two-sided conversation.  Networking should feel like a conversation—not an interrogation! Research the field and the organization in advance so that you can contribute. Demonstrate your interest in what the other party has to say by asking follow-up questions, echoing key points, and if the opportunities arise, engaging in dialogue about non-work interests and connections. Be ready to answer questions as well—particularly questions such as “tell me about yourself” or “why are you interested in this field?” Lastly, consider leveraging “common ground” by talking about shared experiences, including those emanating from Dartmouth.
  4. Take notes and save them afterward. Networking conversations often include subtle points, detailed advice, and recommended actions. Write these down during the conversation, and then after the conversation complete and organize your notes. 
  5. Dress in business casual attire, though for more formal industries you may want to dress as you would for an interview. If you are meeting online, appropriate attire and eye contact are still important.

Discussion Flow

A good networking conversation will be warm, thought-provoking, and professional. There is no mandatory script to follow. However, it does help to craft an organized, focused agenda. Below is a basic format to guide your networking conversations:

  1. Introduce yourself and your reason for reaching out
    1. Express your gratitude for their time: Thank them for their willingness to meet with you.
    2. Introduce yourself and give a brief overview of your interest in the field. You can always expand upon this throughout the conversation, so it does not have to be lengthy. A basic, three-part structure is to give your class year, your major or academic interest area, and a brief overview of your professional interest.
    3. Lay out a game plan: Confirm the length of time available, explain why you reached out to them, and sketch out an agenda and objective.

Sample Intro

“It looks as though we have a half-hour set aside to talk. Does that still work for you? 

I reached out to you because I’ve read a number of policy briefs published by the Council on Foreign Relations, and I found them extremely helpful for two research papers I wrote: one on Eastern Europe and the other on the Arab Spring. Prompted by that, I started researching CFR and other foreign policy think tanks. When I found your name on Handshake and saw you worked at CFR, I was eager to reach out to you.

My main objective for the call is to learn about your career progression, especially your time at CFR, and to get some guidance on what I could be doing now, as a sophomore, to prepare myself for a career in that field. In terms of an agenda, I have about six questions about your career, about think tanks in general, and about CFR specifically. Perhaps we could start by…”

  1. If your intention is to discuss internship or job opportunities, do it only after you have a substantive discussion based on your questions. As mentioned above, asking for an internship before you establish rapport or demonstrate your credibility is a nonstarter. However, there are ways to discuss potential internship opportunities in a productive manner.
    1. First, make sure throughout the networking conversation you:
      1. Demonstrate your research, ask high quality questions, and contribute some of your own thoughts.
      2. Convey interest and enthusiasm by articulating your passion for the field and your willingness to learn.
      3. Showcase your previous knowledge of the field, any relevant experience, and how you would like to expand upon this with future learning and opportunities.
    2. Second, express your interest in furthering your work in the field and contributing to ongoing projects. 
    3. Third, raise the topic indirectly, as a broad inquiry, using language such as “possibility,” “opportunity,” “generally,” “guidance,” and so on.
    4. Fourth, if they are personally unaware of any opportunities, ask if they have any suggestions for further outreach that they would be willing to introduce you to. Acceptable questions pertaining to internship opportunities include:
      1. “Has your company ever hired interns for the kinds of projects we’re discussing? What is that application process like?”
      2. “With interns who have worked at your organization in the past, what qualities and attributes made them successful contributors?”
      3. “One of my goals is to secure a summer internship opportunity that would allow me to assist in this type of work and gain more hands-on experience. Do you have suggestions for people I might reach out to—in your firm or in the field—who might be able to provide information on this?”
      4. “Based on our conversation, do you have any advice on steps I could take to make myself more marketable for internships that would give me exposure to this kind of work?”
      5. “I continue to be extremely interested in the kind of work your organization does. Would it be appropriate to ask you if I could send you my resume, in case you decide to take on an intern?”
    5. One notable exception to this approach is if you are discussing a published internship opportunity with the contact person. Here, it is appropriate to express your interest in the position as part of the agenda-setting phase of the conversation, and to structure part of the conversation around questions pertaining to the opportunity. In this circumstance, frame the conversation around the selection process, key attributes of previously successful candidates, questions around outreach, and so on. In other words, in these conversations, be information and context-seeking—not position-seeking. Let the other party take the lead on the most appropriate way to pursue opportunities at their firm.
  1. Wrap up the exchange by clarifying outcomes and next steps. Conclude with a brief wrap-up that summarizes key insights and outcomes and clarifies any action-items resulting from the conversation, including next steps. Your wrap-up does not need to be lengthy—you are simply reiterating key points in a way that gives the other party an opportunity to interject if need be. A strong wrap-up:
    1. Acknowledges the value of the conversation, often by citing key insights.
    2. Gives an overview of what your planned next steps are.
    3. Confirms the other party’s next steps, if any.

Two Sample Wrap-Ups

“This has been an extremely helpful conversation, [insert name]. In particular, I’m struck by your advice to take some additional coursework on macroeconomics and international law. This afternoon I’m going to see what course offerings are available to me. Meanwhile, thanks for your offer to introduce me to Yusuf Rahman. I’ll send you an email with my contact information as soon as we’re off the phone.”

“I really appreciate your insights on entry-level opportunities to get involved in foreign policy research. You’ve identified three things I need to follow up on: reading CFR’s Task Force Report on Crimea, taking a macroeconomics course, and the upcoming conference you mentioned. Meanwhile, thank you for offering to share my resume with your colleagues. I’ll email you a copy of it, along with a brief statement of interest, as soon as we’re off the phone.”

  1. End by thanking the other person for their time and assistance.

Appendix—Advanced Networking

This is a real example of how a student, after establishing a strong connection with a professional, then turned it into an internship opportunity. (*Names and places have been changed to protect identity.)

Subject: Just Checking In 

Hi Bruce*,

I just got back from my trip around California* a few days ago. You were absolutely right; Santa Cruz is a beautiful place. …..  I didn’t have the chance to check out Monterey Aquarium, but it’s on my list for the future!

Hopefully you are keeping busy and enjoying your work. I guess it’s just about to start warming up which will make field work a little easier. I was looking at the Internships section on the ABC Company page and couldn’t find a link to apply. I understand that you worked with them for a while, do you know more about this program? Specifically who and when they hire or who I could talk to for more information?

Thanks a bunch!  

Annie

Bruce replied:

Hi Annie …thanks for your vacation update….sounds like a blast!   Good for you!

I am cc’ing this email to an ABC Company friend, John who may be able to help you with the intern program this year.    Hopefully, it works out for you.  If they only offer internships for a few days/week, I could probably keep you busy another day.   Take care!

Bruce

Another email followed:

Subject: Re: Just Checking In

Thanks Bruce for forwarding this along to me!

Annie,

I am so excited you’re interested in our intern program! We usually hire one or two interns each summer based on workload and availability of the students.  The majors range anywhere from ….. . However, you will get to work with every discipline here at ABC Company. I have cc’ed Matt & Kathy on this email (the internship program leaders) and if you are interested please forward us your resume!

Thanks and talk to you soon.

John

Annie sent the resume to John – here’s the reply:

Subject:  Re:  Just Checking in

Annie,

Wow, I am very impressed by your resume. I forwarded your resume to our HR director immediately recommending you as a candidate for our intern program. I will also talk with Matt and Kathy right away to consider your resume in their selection.  Usually, our interns are water-resource focused, but let me see if I can shake things up a bit.

John

This email does not mean that Annie has the internship; she will still likely have to be interviewed, but she has at least gotten their attention. Now, it is up to her to impress them in her interview in order to secure an internship. 

Essentially, Annie kept in touch with Bruce, remembered information he shared, and she shared her aspirations and interests with Bruce. She did research before reaching out to him so that Bruce knew how much she was interested in the field of work. Therefore, he was willing to help her out because of a mutually cultivated relationship.

When it was time to look for an internship, if Annie had not gone to the website to check for listings, or had asked him directly to help her get an internship, he would not have been as likely to help. As Annie was trying to help herself, he was then willing to step in to assist. Then when John, Matt, and Kathy saw her resume, it had a much greater impact because of Bruce’s input on the matter.

The key here is: Annie cultivated the relationship with Bruce before asking for his knowledge and/or assistance. 

In an effort to gain greater confidence and practice a networking conversation, we encourage you to schedule a 1:1 appointment with a career coach on Handshake