Did you know: approximately 80% of all jobs are not posted but are filled through some form of networking?
Professional networking can help you explore career paths, obtain advice about your job search, uncover job opportunities, and obtain employer information.
Set goals regarding how many contacts you want to make daily, weekly, or monthly to reach the ultimate job or internship. Have a planned, practiced Elevator Pitch that is clear and delivered with energy that creates interest. Following are good places to network:
Every employer event posted in Handshake @ Illinois is a networking opportunity. When an employer comes to campus, engage in a short conversation. Request a business card and follow-up.
Career search contacts can be made via LinkedIn and Facebook, among others. The MBA, MSA, MSF, and MS-TM programs each have LinkedIn groups for current students and alumni. These are great arenas for finding and connecting with alumni.
Attend functions arranged by your academic program.
Most student organizations have an alumni list or a list of contacts. Become an active member of an organization and take advantage of these contacts and your common affiliation.
Friends and Family
With a little searching, you will be able to find someone in your personal network who might be a great career contact.
Building Your Network
Networking can occur by phone, e-mail, and in person. It’s that easy! Everyone has been where you are and is willing to help, provided you approach them professionally.
What To Do
- Introduce yourself properly and explain that you are seeking information about their firm, their career path, or the industry.
- Ask good questions; keep them brief and focused.
- Be cognizant of your contact’s time.
- Never ask for a job or internship right off the bat.
- Keep your network up-to-date on what is happening in your professional development.
- Look for ways you can benefit the other person.
- Stay in touch with your contacts.
Initiate Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are a great way to gain real insight into the career you’re considering. The goal is to gather information about a field, company, or career; plus, they help you build contacts in the field.
Questions To Ask
- What positions have you held since college graduation?
- On a typical day, what do you do? With whom do you interact?
- What projects did you work on in your first year and what did you find most challenging?
- What is the most effective way to find employment in this field?
- Has the work changed recently due to technology, the marketplace, or competition, etc.?
- How do you see this job changing in the future?
- Where does your work fit into the organization’s objective and structure?
- Is there a career path that most in this field follow?
- What are the basic prerequisites for a job in this field?
- In your opinion, what would assist me in preparing for this career? (clubs, classes, experiences)
- What personal qualities or abilities are important to be successful in this job?
- How should I prepare for an interview in this field?
- Would you look over my resume and tell me if there are ways I could make it more marketable to recruiters?
Don’t forget to follow-up with a thank-you note!
LinkedIn functions similarly to social networking sites but serves as a valuable networking platform by building your professional network and connecting you to people and businesses.
Getting started with LinkedIn
Build Your Profile and Connect: LinkedIn has created useful videos and tip sheets for students to guide you in the development and use of your LinkedIn account. Build your profile and start connecting with alumni and other professionals. Also, see our Career Guide for tips on how to make your profile stand out!
Internships and Jobs: In addition to networking contacts, hundreds of thousands of internships and jobs for students and recent graduates can be found on LinkedIn.
Locate alumni & students on LinkedIn
- From your profile click on “My Network” > “Find Alumni”.
- Set the years attended range to the class years you wish to search.
- Search by location, employer, career field, major, skill set, or run a keyword search.
- Follow-up with alumni contacts through email outside of LinkedIn or follow the invitation to connect instructions below.
Invite alumni to connect
When you “Connect” with an individual on LinkedIn you will be given the opportunity to indicate your relationship to that person and write a short invitation. Your invitation will be brief and should explain who you are and why you want to connect.
- Select how you know the person. Students connecting with alumni should use the “Classmate” option.
- Do not use the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message when connecting with individuals on LinkedIn. Instead, write a brief personal message that conveys who you are and why a connection to that individual is important.
An example of an invitation to connect message:
Dear Mr. Flora:
I am a University of Illinois junior exploring a career in computer engineering and would appreciate your learning more about your career progression as a Software Developer. I found your profile on the UIUC Networking group and hope we can have a follow-up conversation at your convenience. Thank you for your time.
Jacob Ellison ’17
University of Illinois LinkedIn Groups
The University of Illinois’s main LinkedIn group includes over 270,000 alumni, which is a networking resource for alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends of the University of Illinois. Visit the Notables pages to view profiles of our accomplished alumni.
The UIUC Networking group boasts over 34,000 alumni and student members. Many University of Illinois College of Engineering departments also have their own LinkedIn groups that you can join.