Networking

Networking is the process of speaking to people and making contacts to help you in your future career. These people may be able to help you by:

  • giving you advice and information about your future career, skills and development
  • offering you work experience or giving you advice on how to find experience
  • signposting you to job opportunities.

Having a well-established network will help your career planning and make it easier for you to find a job when you graduate. Many jobs are never advertised (often called the hidden job market) and a good network can be a way of hearing about these roles.

How do I build a network?

People you already know

You probably already have a good network. Start by thinking about who you already know. This could be family, friends or work colleagues. It could also be members of your sports teams, societies, lecturers, teachers, neighbours or former employers from any part-time work, internships or voluntary work.

Think about whether they could help you directly or put you in touch with someone else.

Attend careers events

You have the chance to attend many careers-related events while at university. We hold job fairs and networking events through the year. Students make really helpful contacts at these events. Look at our events schedule to find out what's on.

Even if the people you talk to can’t help you directly, they can be a great source of information about an organisation or sector, and they may be able to introduce you to others who can help you.

Departments, colleges and societies may also organise events with alumni.

York Profiles and Mentors

York Profiles and Mentors is a platform of profiles written by York graduates. You can search by the course they studied or by the sector they work in. It’s a good way to learn more about what York graduates do in their careers. You can also send questions and mentoring requests. Read more about how mentoring works on the platform.

Use social media

Social media is an excellent way to build your network. You might find it easier to reach out to people online than face-to-face.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a leading networking site aimed at business professionals that allows you to create an online profile to promote your skills, knowledge and experience.

It allows you to connect with professionals in your field through group discussions and introductions, and receive personal recommendations/endorsements from people you have worked with. If managed carefully, this can help you to build up a good reputation which many people (including potential employers) will see.

Twitter

Twitter is more informal than LinkedIn, but is a useful tool for building your network.

As it’s an open network, it’s easy to join in with conversations. Find people and organisations in the industry you’re interested in and follow them. Join in with discussions and look out for things like regular twitter chats, which are usually networking hours in which people in a particular industry discuss a relevant topic.

Over time people will get to know you and be more willing to help you with requests.

Be careful on social media. It’s common for potential employers to search for you online when they are shortlisting. If you have public social media accounts, would you be happy with what a potential employer could find?

Online communities – blogs and newsletters

Linked to social media, there may be online communities in the area of work you’re interested in. This could be in the form of a blog, newsletter, a website or a forum. These can be hard to find; you might want to ask people in your network if they know of any.

Reach out to new people

Think creatively about how you can reach out to new people to expand your network. Almost every industry will have one or more professional associations that may run networking events. Find relevant associations on the Profession Finder from Total Professions.

You could also reach out to people by email. Maybe you have read an article or blog post you found interesting – you could email the author to let them know and ask any questions you have.

How do I use my network?

Think about what you want to achieve – do you want to talk to someone about getting work experience, learn more about their experiences, get advice or find a job?

If you’re meeting with someone to find out information, make sure you prepare. Here are some questions you might want to use:

  • Tell me about your current role
  • Tell me about your career path so far
  • What was the recruitment process for your role?
  • What type of work experience was useful to help you get your job?
  • What skills are essential/useful for this sector?
  • What advice could you give me about using my time at university effectively?
  • Are there any recruitment agencies I could sign up with?
  • Do you know anyone else who could give me advice/information?

And some general points to remember:

  • Be polite and professional at all times
  • Present yourself professionally at meetings and in writing
  • Have something to make notes on
  • Persistence may pay off, but too much persistence can be annoying –use your judgement
  • Don’t ask for too much time –if you’ve agreed a timeframe for your meeting, stick to it
  • If you meet someone at an event don’t monopolise them, have an initial discussion, ask if it would be OK for you to contact them by email or via LinkedIn and then move on
  • Get a balance during your meeting –you need to tell them enough about yourself, but don’t make the conversation all about you. Learn to listen – it’s a vital communication skill

Even when you don’t feel like you need anything from your network, you should make an effort to stay in touch. This might mean being active on your social media channels (posting, replying to people, engaging in discussions), sending occasional emails or even meeting up for a chat if you have a particularly good relationship with someone.

Good networking should help both people, so when you want to make use of your network think about how you can help the person you’re approaching. It might mean sharing an interesting article or offering to introduce them to someone else in your network.

Relevant pages

Networking Toolkit

We've created a series of short videos to help you make the most of networking. Below you can hear York graduates talk about how to make meaningful connections with other people to enrich the opportunities available to you.

Contributors:
Clare Slater, Literary Manager, The Donmar Warehouse (BA, Writing, Directing and Performance)
Kit Monkman, Feature Film Director and Digital Visual Artist (BA, Philosophy)
Katie Wheat, Head of Higher Education Engagement, Vitae (PhD, Psychology)
Kevin Larkin, Political Correspondent, BBC Radio Leeds (BA, Politics)

1. Why is networking important?

2. How to network effectively online

3. How to network effectively at events