How to Network Successfully

Why Connect with Alumni and Employers?

Networking remains the number one job search strategy, since only 10-20% of jobs are advertised to the public.

Networking is a process of cultivating and maintaining relationships; you’ve been doing that your whole life! Networking can be formal or informal and can take place at any time. If you’ve ever talked to a professor, chatted with a family friend, or talked to someone on a plane, then you’ve already participated in networking.

That being said, networking with your career goals in mind is an ongoing process that takes time and attention. It's easy to think that you're being an annoyance, but don't feel like you are bothering, pestering, or using people. Most individuals love to talk about their careers and themselves.

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Access the Hidden Job Market

Many people use online and paper job postings as their sole job search technique. However, statistics show that only 10% to 20% of jobs are ever published. This means that 80% to 90% of jobs remain hidden in the job market. For this reason, networking remains the number one job search strategy. Learn about job opportunities and how your skills, experience, and education might enable you to make a difference in various organizations.

Explore Your Career

Receive information about different sectors, career fields, employers, and job titles, as well as advice on how to break into those areas.

Identify and expand your network

“I don’t have a network. I don’t know anyone,” may be your first reaction. But you probably know more people than you think. Start by listing everyone you know who could be potential prospects.

  • Identify your network: family members (immediate & extended), friends, friends of parents, parents of friends, neighbors, members of organizations/clubs, faculty, classmates, teammates, roommates, supervisors, co-workers

  • Expand your network: 
    • Join a professional association in your field
    • Attend local community events 
    • Connect on LinkedIn and post comments in group discussions
    • Job Shadow
    • Conduct informational interviews
    • Get involved in alumni associations
    • Talk to classmates – who do they know?
    • Join community clubs
    • Talk to former employers, including supervisors and coworkers
    • Hobby groups: hiking, gardening, yoga, etc.
    • Connect with members of sports clubs: Health club, softball team, hiking club
    • Connect with members of your church, temple, synagogue or mosque
    • Connect with participants in trade shows, seminars or workshops you've attended
    • Get involved in political groups
    • Get involved in professional associations
    • Join a service or fraternal organization or group: Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.
    • Join a volunteer association: United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.
    • Attend campus panels/events/fairs
    • Go to industry conferences
    • Connect on social media sites
    • Connect with faculty, professors, and staff at UCSC

Starting a Conversation at an Event

“They have ___! Have you ever tried it?”

“Hmm, I’m not quite sure what that dish is… do you know?”

“Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”

“Wow, there are a ton of people here!

“Yum, that drink looks good. What is it?”

“Cute shoes! Where did you get them?”

“Did you catch the game yesterday?”

“Hi, I’m ____. Is this your first time at one of these events?”

“Hello there, I’m ____.  So, how did you hear about this event?”

“What a great place for an event, huh? Have you ever been here before?  I’m ____. Nice to meet you.”

Conversation Endings
“I really enjoyed learning more about your work. Could I get your contact info to schedule a time for us to finish our conversation?”

“Alright, I’m going to get some food now that the line has died down a bit. It was great meeting you!”

“I’ve got to say hello to someone, but I’ll be back (or I’ll see you later).”

Conducting Informational Interviews

If you're unsure about your career goals or feel that you lack relevant experience and knowledge to pursue the career you want, then informational interviewing is for you!

It's a chance for you to choose or refine your career path by asking a professional to give you an insider point of view. No one knows better about a particular career than the person doing the job!

Find out more!

Networking & Your Professional Image


Business attire is strongly recommended for attendance at job fairs, networking receptions, and interviews, whereas business casual attire is often appropriate for employer information sessions, panel discussions, informational interviews and other presentations.

Elevator Speech

Casual networking opportunities we encounter nearly every dayplane flights, waiting in line to buy tickets, and on and on. In these circumstances, you won't need an elevator pitch. However, you will need a professional self-introduction networking-specific events, such as:

  • Career fairs
  • Cold calls to employers
  • Opportunities within your own company to talk with higher-up honchos, let them know you're doing a great job, and position you for promotion
  • Job interviews, where an elevator speech can provide the answer to at least two common interview queries: "Tell me about yourself" and "Why should I hire you?"


Is your online presence helping or hurting you? Eighty-five percent of employers say positive online reputation influences hiring decisions. Watch our LinkedIn Like a Pro workshop/webinar with Oscar Garcia, founder of Aspira, to learn how to make the most of this platform:

LinkedIn is a powerful platform used by hiring managers, recruiters and professionals to find candidates, showcase their company, network or gain industry knowledge. But, few people are maximizing LinkedIn’s power. Co-sponsored by Alumni Engagement and the Career Center, this seminar will teach you how to build your profile, network, and find your next opportunity.

Topics include:

  • How to build a great profile
  • Growing your connections
  • Getting noticed on LinkedIn
Commonly referred to as the “professional Facebook,” LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows you to identify and connect with potential networking contacts, research companies, and join professional interest groups. Employers frequently check candidates’ online presence before granting them an interview or selecting them for a position.

Business Cards

A personal business card can be a convenient tool for both you and your newly-found contacts. Keep it concise, easy to read, and professional. The design can reflect the culture of the field or industry you're exploring. You can make inexpensive ones on websites like VistaPrint. 

Following Up

Why Following Up is Important

An initial meeting or contact with someone does not establish a connection unless there is follow up of some kind. Developing relationships (not just contacts) is key to having access to opportunities. Stay in touch over the long haul—not just when you need something. Make it part of your long-term career plan. 

Always send an email or letter to potential contacts within two business days following an initial meeting. You’ve worked hard to initiate this new relationship- keep this connection alive! 

Maintain and Nurture Connections: Ways to Follow Up

  • Thank everyone who helps you and keep people posted on your progress
  • Follow them on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn
  • Congratulate them on career accomplishments
  • Share relevant career industry articles you’ve read
  • Invite them out to coffee or lunch now and then 
  • Follow-up with your status on contacts provided
  • Send holiday/birthday greetings

Do's and Don'ts of Networking

Do's  Do not's
  • Clearly pronounce your name, smile and establish eye contact
  • Dress appropriately and get to events early
  • Practice your handshake  
  • When attending a function, make a goal to meet five new people in an hour
  • Enter and exit group conversations politely
  • Listen to others when they are talking and comment appropriately
  • Keep conversations short and focused
  • Ask for a business card and follow up
  • Take the initiative to approach others and introduce yourself
  • Jot notes down about the person on the back of business cards
  • Ask if your new contact knows anyone else that they might introduce you to
  • Take risks: the person next to you at a wedding or on a plane may be a fabulous contact 
Expect instant gratification
  • Start a conversation by talking about yourself
  • Sit with a friend at an event
  • Eat and talk
  • Play with/Answer your phone in the middle of a conversation