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Northwest Missouri State University

Networking Basics

What does it mean to network? Contrary to popular belief, networking is not calling up every person you know (or don’t know, for that matter) and asking them for a job. Nor is networking simply "working a room" in an attempt to collect business cards and make contacts with people who can provide you with something of value. Instead, networking refers to a give and take process of connecting with people and building lasting relationships. It’s about meeting new people, sharing information and learning about potential opportunities and various career fields.

Research shows that as many as 90% of open positions are filled as a result of networking. The contacts you make, if cultivated and used wisely, can lead to future employment. Everyone has a network; it’s just a matter of thinking broadly and creatively about who is in it. This includes past and present friends, family, neighbors, teachers/faculty, employers/coworkers, members of professional societies, employers who come to campus, alumni, religious affiliations, etc. In addition, the ever-evolving world of social media has opened up countless new ways to network virtually with virtually anyone.

While some people seem naturally more comfortable and adept at approaching strangers, engaging in conversations and building relationships, many others approach the task of networking with uncertainty and apprehension. Keep in mind that networking is a skill, and like most things, it can be learned, practiced and improved over time.


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Five Steps to Successful Networking

Step 1. Understand that networking is really just a process of meeting people and having conversations. It's not a sales call and it's not a job interview.

Step 2. Be directive, but not forceful. Since you are typically the one who generated this interaction, you need to be ready to help steer the conversation. Have some questions in mind beforehand about the person's career path, their organization and advice they may have for you. Let the dialog flow from there.

Step 3. Be appreciative. You should always respect the time and efforts of the people you interact with. That means be brief if you call without scheduling a meeting, be on time if you do have a scheduled meeting and be attentive at all times.

Step 4. Follow up. You should always send a follow-up after meeting someone. This can be in the form of an email, a mailed letter or even a connection request on LinkedIn. If the meeting was in a formal setting, the follow up should have the tone of a "thank you" letter.

Step 5. Maintain the relationship. The follow up doesn't stop with an email or LinkedIn connection. Look for opportunities to reconnect on an occasional-but-ongoing basis in the months and years that follow.

Business Cards: Networking at its Finest

Networking and marketing yourself is very important to your job/internship search. A networking business card will look a lot like a traditional business card and provides a way to share career and contact information with those you meet in both social and professional situations. A business card can act as a mini resume when giving a resume is not appropriate and may be retained by the recipient much longer than a resume.

Please check this link for more information and an example.

Networking at Events

Look for ways to meet and mingle with working professionals. Career Services provides multiple career events throughout the fall and spring semesters as well as a list of off campus events. Check the Career Services events schedule for details and additional information.

Students should also consider other options for networking, which can include professional groups or association meetings, Chamber of Commerce groups and more generalized industry or geographically-oriented networking events. See the links below for examples of local networking events and organizations.

Connecting with Alums

Connecting with Northwest alumni can be one of the best approaches to networking. Members of the Bearcat family have loyalty to Northwest and are often happy to help students with networking and informational interviewing.

There are many options for locating and connecting with graduates of Northwest. In addition to Northwest alumni groups on social media outlets like LinkedIn and Facebook, you can attend alumni chapter meetings in a variety of locations.

Social Networking

The use of social media in career-related activities has increased dramatically in recent years. These relatively new outlets can benefit you in several areas, including information on trends and news, serving as a place to locate jobs and internships and expanding your network. There is a wide array of social media sites that you can utilize and the popularity of each will change as technology and trends dictate. We recommend you consider the following:

  • –This professional networking site provides you the opportunity to establish a professional online identity, participate in conversations on relevant topics, and make connections with professionals in your industry or career path. Key tip: To get the most out of LinkedIn seek out and participate in LinkedIn groups of interest.
  • – This microblogging site may be most widely known for its use by media outlets and celebrities but can also be a great way for you to interact with people of similar professional interests from across the globe. Additionally, companies are increasingly using Twitter to promote jobs and internships. Key tip:  Use “hashtag” searches (e.g. #jobs or #internships and) “follow” companies of interest to find opportunities.
  • – This social networking site likely needs no introduction or instruction on usage.  Be sure that your activities on Facebook won’t give prospective employers “red flags” about you as a candidate!  Check your photos, videos and comments for professionalism. Key tip:  Utilize Facebook’s privacy settings to disallow public viewing of tagged photos, wall posts and other aspects of your profile (or make your profile entirely unsearchable).

There are a variety of other tools and sites that you can use to develop your personal brand and incorporate into your job search strategy, including blogging (, and participating in sharing networks (  Like most career-related activities, you should initiate these as part of a larger strategy to emphasize your personal skills and values.  Explore opportunities and decide what avenues are best for your goals.

How to Use provides the opportunity to stay in touch with your professional connections.  However, it does much more than that, other aspects of the site can provide an amazing amount of value to your career exploration or job search activities.  Here is how we recommend that you use LinkedIn.

  • Complete your profile. Having a fully completed profile will help others view your activities in a positive light.  Users with incomplete profiles are less likely to receive communication and less likely to be seen as "legitimate."  You can start the process of creating your profile simply by uploading your resume or CV. Thereafter the system will walk you through each step that is necessary to have a complete profile.
  • Make connections.  It is fine for you to reach out to your friends on LinkedIn but, you shouldn't stop there.  Connect with past supervisors, professionals that you meet during an internship or research project and anyone you meet at a Northwest event, industry panel or career fair.
  • Join groups.  There are several large Northwest alumni groups that are obvious for you to join. In fact, just joining the three largest gives you immediate access to more than 2,000 Bearcat connections! Don't stop with those alumni groups! Search for groups based on your interests, whether it's an industry, a company, a geographic location or otherwise.  These groups give you the opportunity to interact with a message directly with professionals
  • Use the Answers section.  There is a section of LinkedIn called "Answers."  This is a space where anyone can pose a question and anyone can provide an answer.  Consider doing both!  This is a great place to learn about trends in your field of interest.  It's also a great place to contribute to the dialog and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Learn about Companies.  The "Companies" section of LinkedIn can provide some amazing information about companies in your industry.  Not sure where to start?  You can browse by industry.  Once you've selected a company, you are given information about not only that company, but other LinkedIn users who are currently or have been part of that company.  You can also learn about new hires, promotions and other internal information that was previously unknowable.